Honda's Motorcycle Division Is Rolling into Ridesharing

The world's largest motorcycle​ manufacturer has made a strategic investment in Asian ridesharing company Grab.

Honda

Ridesharing alone won't solve traffic in congested cities—vehicles will need to take up less space if people expect to traffic to move more quickly as cities grow and suburbs spread. That may be why Honda is betting on Grab, an app-based ride-hailing company based in Indonesia, as its first move into the shared mobility game. Drivers for Grab can use motorcycles as one of the modes of transportation customers can request to their destination quickly—which matches nicely with Honda's motorcycle division.

Grab has announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding to work with the automotive manufacturer on initiatives that will enhance its services. The start-up operates a lot like Lyft and Uber, offering shared transportation services in premium and mainstream vehicles, as well as food delivery. However, it allows motorcycle owners to join in the ridesharing economy—either as professional drivers through its GrabBike service, or through GrabHitch, a "social motorcycle" program. GrabBike drivers work either on a full- or part-time basis, while GrabHitch drivers are regular commuters who've signed up to pick up paying passengers on a casual basis to help cover vehicle costs.

The tiny footprint of motorcycles is an advantage in dense urban environments routinely clogged with traffic, making them ideal for zipping through gridlock. However, U.S.-based companies strictly use passenger vehicles—which may be making traffic worse rather than better. Honda can leverage its position as the largest manufacturer of motorcycles to whittle down the size of the vehicle used to move people around towns.

“In the midst of the dramatic structural change of the mobility industry, the ‘sharing economy’ that is rapidly expanding all around the world has great potential to broaden the concept of mobility itself," said Shinji Aoyama, operating officer and director of Honda, in a news release. "For the collaboration with Grab, we will discuss how we can offer safer and more convenient products and services for our shared goal of resolving issues and challenges facing society in Southeast Asia.”

Honda isn't the only company interested in working with Grab—autonomous vehicle start-up NuTonomy recently partnered with the ride sharing company to test its driverless vehicles as a taxi service. However, an accident with a truck has put the pilot program is on hold. Grab recently raised $750 million in fundraising, but details of the auto manufacturer's strategic investment have not been released.

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