KUALA LUMPUR – Grab Malaysia recently began testing a new service called “Quiet Ride”, in which passengers can request that their driver not engage in conversation with them during their trip.
After securing their ride reservation, passengers simply respond to an automated message in the Grab Chat indicating that they would prefer a leisurely ride.
If you’ve found yourself thinking “great, now I don’t have to gossip anymore,” you’re not the only one feeling this way.
Initially, the introvert in me was excited to read about the new feature. After a long day at work, all I want to do is hop on my Grab ride, watch an episode of Love is Blind (I’m all for trashy TV), or reply to messages from 30-somethings on my WhatsApp group chats .
I book Grab rides frequently, so I decided to try the feature to see what value it adds to the customer’s travel experience.
The booking procedures were the same: you enter your destination, pick up the location and book a ride. When a driver accepts the booking, you’ll receive an automated message asking if you’d like to opt for a quiet ride. You have to manually enter it in the chat message, so I typed “Quiet Ride” and waited for the car to arrive.
When the Grab car arrived, the driver checked with me to confirm my name and destination and even asked me if the air conditioner temperature was okay.
It was our only conversation until I reached my destination when he said, “Good day,” like most other drivers do.
While trying out the new feature, I realized that this experience was the same as most of my other Grab rides: Calm.
While the driver was still asking basic questions, we spoke little.
In the past, there have been very few times a Grab driver has struck up a conversation, and it’s usually to ask me where I’m from and what I like in Malaysia. On average, 9 out of 10 of my Grab rides were conversationless before I even introduced this feature.
After my car ride, I couldn’t help but think, what exactly is this new feature for?
Has there been any research on this, or are we just teching everything just for the sake of it?
Mass reliance on apps, especially post-pandemic, has made it easier to do almost anything online with minimal human interaction.
My problem is that communication is part of human nature, and the months of confinement have already affected the way we interact, making us more socially awkward and comfortable with our loneliness.
Is encouraging more of this a good thing? I do not think so.
Grab’s choice to offer a silent option to its users is a fundamental misinterpretation of the function of what a driver does.
A few years ago, experienced drivers were considered a treasure trove of in-depth knowledge of the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur and other travel destinations.
For me, the only difference the “Quiet Ride” feature makes is to promote silence. It’s like buying my way of not interacting with drivers through an app instead of just communicating that I’ve had a long day at work and would rather not chat.
As someone with some degree of social anxiety and a woman who sometimes needs to be alert when riding with a stranger, I understand why this feature would be useful, but from my personal experience , nearly all of my Grab rides so far have been “silent”, and while this feature may have significant benefits in other parts of the world, I don’t think it has added anything to my riding experience with Grab in Malaysia.
I would much rather see their innovative efforts to address issues related to skyrocketing booking prices, driver shortages, booking delays and connectivity issues.
In the age of “social” media, this “Quiet Ride” feature was nothing more than an empty experiment that promotes an anti-social society.
If you want to ride in silence, just let your driver know.
These conversations with our Grab drivers may not be life changing, but they fulfill a basic human need: social interaction.
Huda Hekmat is an educator, content writer and Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. She is currently doing her Masters in Educational Psychology. When she’s not teaching, writing, or trying to arm her gym mates, you can find her reading a thriller, watching a stand-up, or looking for the best nasi lemak. from KL. The opinions expressed are those of the author.
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