Any smartphone-wielding household or individual residing in cities is surely no stranger to ride-hailing or ride-sharing mobile apps such as Uber, Grab and Lyft, particularly to those with an eye on beating urban traffic on a regular basis. Enter Dacsee, a decentralised ride-sharing platform that is set to join the ranks of crowd-sourced mobility in April.

Described as ‘Decentralised Alternative Cabs Serving & Empowering Everyone’, hence the resulting acronym Dacsee, the ride-sharing platform is brought to Malaysia with local partner DMD Technology, and its operating model is described as one belonging to the community and not to any specific company; the theme behind the phrase ‘by the community, for the community’ is a recurring one.

On one hand, on-device images provided by Dacsee reveal a glimpse into a mobile interface not too different from those of the established players in the market, although the platform is distinct from the established likes of Uber and Grab, operationally. Dacsee prioritises and focuses on its community and networks, with the added advantages for its drivers to manage and run their own operations: Dacsee merely provides the open-source platform.

Unlike Uber and Grab where each aspect of their respective operations are determined by the company where all the driver has to do is comply to the companies’ stipulations (with the company being the middle party), Dacsee does away with the middle-man role, and instead aims to empower its network of drivers and passengers.

Drivers stand to increase their per-drive income not just by increasing the frequency of trips made, but also by adding more drivers to their own referral network. This is made possible because in the existing practice of ride-sharing companies, the overseeing company behind the operations (e.g. Grab, Uber et al) will take a percentage cut from the total fare paid by the customer. Currently, Grab and Uber have been tipped to take around 20% from fare revenue.

Dacsee operates differently, as it is an open-source platform which isn’t monopolised by any company. The three key parties involved here are the drivers, the passengers and the government, in this case the Land Public Transport Authority, which is in charge of driver application approvals. As mentioned above, Dacsee operates merely as the platform provider here.

The mechanism functions thus, according to Dacsee: when driver A brings aboard individual B for a driver position, A will gain a commission as a percentage out of B’s fare. When B follows suit and brings individual C aboard as a driver, drivers A and B will be paid a commission out of C’s fare revenue. A three-tier stack of drivers is the maximum allowed for each network.

If this sounds like it rings some multi-level marketing (MLM)-shaped bells, it does, however the similarities end at the structure of income distribution, and does not require any initial paid-up capital. For example, each cut that goes into a driver’s referee’s commission shall come from the company’s arbitrary 20% cut, which leaves the 80% take-home sum intact for the driver.

In the case of Dacsee however, the 20% taken from each driver doesn’t go into Dacsee entirely, rather, it will go towards paying the commission fees of higher-ranked drivers in the form of recurring over-riding referral commission, including an equal-share split which then goes to Dacsee.

The percentages mentioned by Dacsee at the press conference are arbitrary; the eventual agreed sums may vary. A range of factors are considered, such as mileage rates, and these will be determined by the aforementioned three key parties – driver, passenger and local authority – and not Dacsee themselves.

Where Dacsee also sets itself apart from other ride-sharing platforms is in the range of choice offered to both driver and passenger alike. For the passenger, he or she can make a list of preferred drivers whom they are most comfortable with, and will be given the choice to give them their repeat custom.

Payment, incidentally, can be made via cash, credit card or cryptocurrency, the latter two going through local currency exchange before the revenue share goes to the driver. The cryptocurrency used is Dacsee token, which is a decentralised Ethereum ERC20 token, accessible to users via the Dacsee Wallet app for both iOS and Android. These can be stored and transferred only with an Ethereum private key.

Safeguards for emergencies or otherwise untoward incidences include a panic function within the Dacsee app, and individuals registered on the Dacsee network – both drivers and passengers – can be alerted to the situation and have a look in or assist where required, for further, more appropriate response.

Conversely, drivers can also choose not to take future bookings from particular customers should they turn out to be difficult or unreasonable.

The driver selection process also goes through Dacsee’s community network. For example, when driver A recommends the intake of individual B as a Dacsee driver, he or she will have to be screened by another Dacsee driver who will receive a request via the app to screen the candidate in person for propriety, such as for presentability and the candidate vehicle’s roadworthiness (visually conducted).

Finally, the driver’s password and licence approval will be issued only after SPAD has evaluated the candidate’s background and documentation.

Only after SPAD approval will the candidate be approved for Dacsee duty. In this structure, should driver B commit any notable transgression, driver A will be held accountable too, as they referred B into the network. This is intended to instil responsibility amongst drivers within the Dacsee network, the firm said.

Dacsee is currently in the hiring and testing phase on the driver and software fronts, respectively. The network has a pool of over 5,000 registered drivers right now, with sights set for the app to go online (for Android and iOS devices) by late February, in time for an April launch. Following the Malaysian roll-out, Indonesia, India and China are next, before the firm aims to spread its reach further outwards.

Time will tell whether or not Dacsee proves to be a hit with the drivers, whom CEO Alexander von Kaldenberg anecdotally quoted as saying their revenue has dropped by around 60% after driving for said ride-sharing services an average of two years. Also interesting is the take-up amongst passengers, who may find added comfort in the measures taken.

How about you, dear reader? Allowing for the unconfirmed fare structure, how appealing do you find this setup?