Uber suspended its CNG-run auto-rickshaw service in Dhaka soon after its rollout, citing "mechanical faults."
Both the introduction and suspension of the service was done without making any official announcement. The San Francisco-based ride-hailing company did not issue a statement on the matter despite always having done so in the past when announcing any new move.
Some customers had come across the service while using the app to request a ride.
After seeing "CNG service" on the Uber app, Imran Hossain, a private job-holder, requested a trip to go to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University from Shahjadpur in the capital.
"My request was accepted, and the app showed the fare to be about Tk 300. However, it was cancelled after a few minutes. Now the app does not display the CNG service option," Hossain told The Daily Star yesterday.
The Daily Star obtained several screenshots showing the route of a trip on the app and the messages Uber sent to its customers following the cancellation of a request. "Our CNG service will remain suspended for a temporary period because of mechanical faults. We will come back with our next update soon," Uber wrote in a message.
The platform did not respond to queries sent through its official public relations agency in Dhaka.
An official of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority said it was unaware of Uber's move.
After the introduction of ride-sharing services by Pathao and Uber, CNG auto-rickshaw owners and drivers had called on the government to ban them as it broke their monopoly.
Auto-rickshaw drivers also took to the streets in the capital several times and observed strikes. But their demands drew flak from the public, with many taking to social media voicing their support for the app-based services.
In 2017, CNG drivers and owners changed their minds and urged the companies to include them in the apps.
The platforms had planned to roll out CNG services at the time, but it did not progress much as the number of smartphone users among the auto-rickshaw drivers was very low.
"We had reviewed the launch of the service several times. However, we couldn't implement it because most of the drivers don't use smart devices," Hussain M Elius, co-founder and chief executive officer of Pathao, said yesterday.
"We have no plan to roll out the service as our main focus are our existing ride sharing services, food delivery and e-commerce logistics."
In 2018, OBHAI, a ride-sharing app offering the service of cars, motorbikes, minibuses and CNG auto-rickshaws, was launched in Dhaka and later in Chattogram.
But it too faced challenges in making the service popular because of a lack of smartphone users among the drivers. This prompted the company to start distributing smart devices among them.
"We also facilitated training by partnering with the Accident Research Institute of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology so that drivers can drive safely and become more tech-educated," said Syed Fakruddin Millath, senior manager for corporate and regulatory affairs at OBHAI Solutions.
Now, 12,000 CNG-run auto-rickshaws are connected to the platform. The company has expanded its footprint to Sylhet and Cox's Bazar.
Mofazzol Foraizi, a driver connected with OBHAI, received a smartphone from the ride-hailing company two years ago.
He completed 20 trips on Wednesday and 18 trips yesterday.