Recognised as public transportation options by UITP
A month ago, global public transportation marked a critical milestone in the ongoing digital revolution: e-hailing and other new mobility players were officially recognised as public transportation options by the International Association of Public Transport (UITP).
The association, on Dec 4, said it is setting up a new subsection called Digital Platforms to welcome internet-based mobility services providers. It defines the category as housing players that, via the internet, provide access to services or assets that range from travel information, booking rides with a driver or accessing rental cars, among others.
Joining UITP’s ranks of 1,500 members under the subsection are the likes of major ride-sharing players Uber, Grab and Ola, mobility payments app Moovel and carpooling platform Via.
It is a significant development that firmly sets the path forward for how urban mobility may continue to be reshaped.
E-hailing, particularly ride-sharing solutions, had begun as alternatives to driving personal cars that challenged existing legal restrictions worldwide. Rides were a way to get from point A to point B similar — like hitching a ride for a fee.
Joining UITP signals that these digital players are now positioning more actively to be part of a larger public transportation ecosystem, complementing other forms towards a seamless urban mobility experience for the passenger.
It affirms a natural shift in how ride-sharing is increasingly used: to bridge gaps in other public transportation options like rail and buses by providing first-mile and last-mile connectivity.
For Uber specifically, this marks its continuing shift away from a confrontational attitude towards a collaborative approach with authorities.
In a statement on Dec 4, Uber’s head of transport policy and research Andrew Salzberg said the alignment with the public transportation sector will make the service provider a better partner for cities as it seeks to connect more passengers to public transport.
Cebu Government Partners Uber, Grab
In fact, such partnerships are already forming. In November, the Cebu City government in the Philippines announced a six-month trial during which it would partner Uber and Grab to reduce its car ownership and better track existing vehicle assets.
The UberGov project will see the city hall using Uber’s technology to keep track of its vehicles in real time, according to mayor Tomas Osmeña. City hall personnel can then be aware of the vehicles’ locations around the city for ease of movement.
Under the Grab For Work collaboration, Cebu City hall personnel will use Grab services to move around the city at a discounted rate. Osmeña says the city hall will save money from not having to buy new vehicles and hire new staff to operate those new vehicles.
But cost savings are not the only benefits. Cebu City’s initiative also helps free up more parking spaces around the city and allow closer monitoring of operational costs via the transportation data from Grab.
More importantly, it is leading by example in showing the public how car ownership can be sustainably reduced without compromising mobility.
Autonomous Vehicles’ Future Lies in Public Transport
That is critical moving forward as the world moves towards a future populated with self-driving cars — an inevitable scenario.
China, for example, wants a fifth of its cars to be highly autonomous by 2025 and 10% to be fully self-driving by 2030. Elsewhere, commercial carmakers such as Honda and Mercedes are re-strategizing for the long-term around self-driving products.
Crucially, some large automakers are no longer going it solo, such as BMW and Daimler. Their decision to form a partnerships with suppliers to reduce individual investment outlay, indicate a recognition that the commercial returns may not be as lucrative as initially expected.
That in turn shows a recognition that the future of self-driving technology may lie in public transportation, not so much personal car ownership — as seen in the alignment of Uber and Grab, who are pouring money into self-driving technology as well, with UITP.