Uber wants to manage public transport | Technology
In 600 cities around the world It is now normal to open an application on the phone, give a button and someone with a car to take you to your destination. Uber is replacing at full speed urban transport by car, paid or private. But sometimes the best alternative is not the car. It is arrived before, or more convenient, or cheaper, by metro or bus. Or by bike. Uber wants those options to also appear in your application. That you can see in a single screen comparison, and if possible, buy directly there the public transport ticket. Uber does not want to be the application you open when you need a car. It wants to be the one you open when you need to move, in general, anywhere.
"Cars are for us what the books are for Amazon," said company CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Do you think that Uber is everywhere? What has urban transport already dominated in hundreds of cities? Think of Amazon selling physical books 15 years ago. Think of Netflix distributing DVD at home. That is the stadium where Uber sees himself.
"You can not be the Amazon of transport without counting on the biggest system of all, which is public transport," said David Reich on Tuesday. head of Uber Transit, the division of the company that intends to integrate buses, subways, trams or whatever is inside the application. During a Uber conference in Santa Monica, California, to which EL PAÍS was invited, Reich explained that this is a key part of the company's philosophy "to make the individual car an idea of the past".
"Uber already has tens of millions of users who do not enter the application looking for public transport. Now they will find it there. That is something unique that Uber can offer. The public transport applications do not add users, what they solve is how to use it. We offer if you should use it (to people who had not considered it). " In the mobile screens of the application, you can see "Transit" next to the Uber car options, with a calculation of time to the destination and the price.
Therefore, "the first thing we offer to cities is to show their public transport services within our application," says Reich, "so that someone wants to move around the city that maybe had not considered that option can see that it is better that than buying one of our products (like asking for a car) ".
Uber hopes to have data on the transport of cities to integrate them in their technology. In the United States, it has integrated two applications such as CityMapper and Moovit, which already offer maps and public transport options. When you have the travel data of public transport, plus those of the cars, plus those of the scooters and bicycles that the company is already offering, explains Reich, "you can see how an entire city moves and opens many doors to cities to plan efficiently. "
Uber has partnered with a third application, Masabi, so that in the future tickets for the subway can also be purchased within Uber. The ticket would become a code that could be read on the phone's own screen, such as boarding passes for the planes. Reich declined to say how the proceeds of the ticket would be distributed, because it is a strategic issue of Masabi. But he made it clear that from Uber they see it as another service to the city. "The sale of tickets is between 10% and 15% of the cost of operating public services," says Reich.
From the point of view of Uber, thanks to its technology, it is offering cities a database that will allow identifying the routes with the most need, the areas with the worst service, inefficiencies in the lines. A precision technology to make political decisions with precision. Examples of this technology can be seen on the web of Uber Movement, a rare opportunity for the public to see cities with Uber's eyes. It's a data map of 2 billion trips to see how long it takes from one site to another, like do they work, cities like Paris, Bogota, Manchester or Los Angeles. For example, from La Défense to the Louvre by car, on Mondays, it takes 18 minutes and 10 seconds on average. It is not a calculation to eye. They are real travel data.
As Uber sees it, its technology allows observing and predicting with great accuracy the mobility patterns of a city. Also, see what users do when they are not traveling. That is, the people who get off at this metro station, where does it go next? How long? Uber knows it, cities do not. The cities have transport infrastructures. Uber, no. "We do not try to impose ourselves on anything," Reich said. "Many of the cities we talk to are not worried about the center, but about the suburbs, the worst served areas. Do you do more metro? Or do you find a more efficient solution? " That's where Uber sees himself providing the necessary information.
The whole idea started in Denver, Colorado, last January. Denver is the laboratory city to see what a fully integrated urban transport system on the Uber platform is like, from scooters to limousines. But Uber Transit was already associating before with administrations in other places for specific programs. In Pinellas County, Florida, it has a program called First & Last Mile, in which trips to the bus station and from the destination station are discounted. That is, Uber provides the extra journey to reach public transport. In Boston, the city subsidizes Uber trips for people with reduced mobility. In Nice, there is a flat rate to use Uber at night in places where public transport does not arrive.
Uber started in 2012 to offer car trips without having a single car in its fleet. What he did was put in particular contact. In 2014, he realized that his location technology allowed him to detect when there were several people asking for cars on the same route and he took out Uber Pool, to share the race. With the purchase of Jump, it began in 2018 to offer electric scooters and electric bicycles for short trips. The experience has begun in Santa Monica, California and is already in 17 cities in the US. Uber Transit, to integrate public transport, is the target for 2019. The company ensures that it will be able to offer intra-urban flights on electric planes (UberAir) in 2023.
The ideal scenario in which the company is seen is like an application in which everything is integrated. That the user thinks about going somewhere, open Uber, and have all the options. For example, you need an electric bike in the corner of your house to go to the train station, and at your final stop you need a car that will take you the last two kilometers to where you are going. In this ideal scenario all this could be programmed by touching a button. The Amazon of urban transport is underway.