It’s like Grab but for our health workers and frontliners

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has essentially brought a large part of the world to a standstill. Most countries are now under lockdown with people advised -often ordered- to stay indoors, especially with public transport in most places being suspended.

Frontliners and healthcare workers, however, still need to report to duty and help battle against the disease. In order to help expand a means of transport for them in this time of crisis, the Toyota Mobility Foundation (TMF) announced that it will be providing 10 connected and sanitized shuttles free of cost to hospitals treating COVID-19 cases, starting in Thailand. Unlike the free shuttles plying a set route in Metro Manila, these shuttles are equipped with software allowing them to be booked by the commuter.

Think of it as a ride-hailing app but only for healthcare workers and other frontliners. Rather than waiting in groups at a set location, passengers can be picked up in various locations across the city. The app also provides an accurate time on when the van will pick them up and when they will arrive at their destinations. The "Just-in-Time" software is designed by Singapore-based SWAT Mobility, a company that provides demand-responsive, ride-sharing solutions.

“The aim of TMF is to provide the best possible mobility solution which allows the healthcare workers to have a safe, convenient and free commute which also allows peace of mind at this uncertain time,” said Pras Ganesh, Program Director for TMF Asia Region.

All shuttles are cleaned and sanitized regularly during their deployment. They will also be equipped with various productions including air purification devices and seat covers that can be periodically changed. Social distancing guidelines for passengers will also be followed.

While the services are currently being rolled out in Thailand, TMF plans to introduce the same service in other countries across Southeast Asia, and hopefully in the Philippines too. They aim to start the service mid-April and operate for at least 3 months.

“Based upon the Bangkok experience, we also aim to roll this service out in some Southeast Asian countries. Once standardized, the operating procedure, will also be made available to anyone who would like to provide similar services,” added Ganesh.