ET GBS 2018: Shared mobility a fix for urban transport woes, says Uber CEO
In countries like the United States, which last experienced rapid urban growth decades ago, urban transportation places personal car ownership at its core.
In countries like the United States, which last experienced rapid urban growth decades ago, urban transportation places personal car ownership at its core. That comes at a high cost. Cities spend billions of dollars on parking spaces, using valuable resources and real estate that could be transformed into housing or office space. In the US, we waste seven billion hours a year sitting in traffic. Not only does traffic impact economic productivity, emissions from idling cars make up more than 20% of our total carbon footprint.
In India the situation is not vastly different. For decades a fledgling public transport system made private car ownership a necessity in cities, sometimes for personal commuting and some other times for lastmile connectivity to and from mass transit stations.
Even though urban mobility options have improved by leaps and bounds since, a growing economy has meant that private car ownership remains an aspiration across both urban and rural India.
And while car ownership remains low as a proportion of the country’s total population, it is the density of ownership in cities that is worrying: Mumbai, for example, has a density of 430 cars per kilometre and has seen an average increase of 20% in travel times. Meanwhile, according to a recent report, congestion is costing the national capital region of Delhi an estimated ?60,000 crore annually.
Solving these problems is a formidable task. It will require concerted, long-term action from all who play a part in India’s urban transportation systems: not just public transport, but also private players like Uber as well as everyday commuters themselves. But there are signs of hope: because for the first time in many decades, urban transportation amid rapid change, enabled by forward-looking regulatory reforms, major infrastructural investments and — importantly — new technological solutions.
Indeed, we believe new technology, such as ridesharing apps, can help avoid some of the pitfalls of today’s transportation system. As research by the International Transport Forum has shown, if every vehicle on the road was shared, we could cut down the number of cars by more than 90%. That won’t be easy to achieve. But while today ridesharing accounts for less than one percent of kilometres driven globally, Morgan Stanley estimates that number could rise to more than 25% by 2030.
It is precisely for these reasons that ridesharing technology presents an opportunity for India to leapfrog the path that other countries have taken. However, modern regulations will be needed to foster its growth. In India, important steps are already being taken. The government think tank, Niti Aayog, is assessing the impact on traffic of allowing the use of private cars for ridesharing — something that is prohibited today.
Ridesharing will also be a critical part of our longerterm transportation future: self-driving vehicles. Research has shown that self-driving technology could drastically improve mobility, while also improving road safety. But for this technology’s benefits to be widely distributed, self-driving cars must be shared, rather than individually owned and operated. An individually owned system of selfdriving vehicles could replicate — and possibly even exacerbate — our existing transportation challenges.
Ultimately, we believe shared mobility through technology will bring great benefits, but we can’t do it alone. Whether it’s connecting our service with vital mass transit systems; evaluating infrastructural requirements for electric vehicles adoption; or providing data on trips to transportation planners, we’re excited by the steps we’ve already taken in this direction.
We know we can do more, and we will. Technology on its own is not a solution for urban problems — but done right, and in partnership with others, we believe shared mobility has the potential to contribute to a better world for all.