GoJek Free Ride vs Uber Surcharge: How Ride-sharing Companies Deal With Emergency Situation

There were gunfire and multiple bombs blast in a business district area in Jakarta on January 14, 2016. A police post damaged, 2 people killed, and several people injured. Rescue cars then came in a lightspeed to evacuate people. Speaking of evacuation, there is a viral heroic story about this so-called “Sarinah Bombing” rescue activity where a reckless GoJek driver ran toward an injured woman within bombing area and rescue her to a safer place.

Minutes after, the driver’s company, GoJek, the biggest motorcycle ridesharing platform in Indonesia and its competitor, GrabBike announced via their official Twitter that they were providing FREE rides during the day. That initiative was applauded by the resident as it really helps speed up the evacuating process.

Several months later, here in New York City, we were shocked by the Chelsea bombing that injured 29 people and causing panic. Interestingly, what was trending on Facebook hours later was Uber’s unavoidable high price due to its automatic surcharge system. While it makes sense to give driver such incentives to head toward emergency areas via surge price, the public obviously dislikes it. Although they announced that surge pricing has been turned off an hour later and ready to give a refund, the public was already upset.

What can we learn from both occurrences? Mulgan in his book “The Art of Public Strategy” says that in the fields of crisis and chaos, the speed of action and response is all-important; actions can not afford to be more complex. Also, in this kind of situation, the policy window is very narrow. GoJek succeed to deliver their policy in a no time. An hour for Uber to turn off its price-gauging policy is deemed too long and too late, especially because this company agreed to conform with a state law which restricts surge pricing during emergencies and natural disasters.

So, in order to create an adaptive strategy that might satisfy the public, policy makers have to understand what kind of field being dealt with. It is important because every field has its own best strategy. In the state of emergency, speed and good communication is the key.


  1. GoJek and GrabBike free ride. http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2016/01/14/057736090/Jakarta-Terror-GrabTaxi-and-Go-Jek-Gives-Free-Ride
  2. Uber surcharge. http://www.newsmax.com/TheWire/uber-surge-pricing-chelsea/2016/09/20/id/749221/
  3. Mulgan G. 2009. The Art of Public Strategy. Oxford University Press.