Ride-Sharing To Be Future Of Urban Mobility

For last three years, Uber has changed the paradigm of mobility in India. Shweta Rajpal Kohli – Public Policy Head, India and South Asia, Uber, in conversation with Manish Arora

After completion of over three years, what is the next milestone for the Indian market?

We’ve come a long way with presence in 29 cities across India, millions of shared journeys and tens of thousands of economic opportunities created, we are touching lives and impacting mobility while celebrating cities across India. We started out to solve a simple problem – how do you get a ride at the tap of a button? And with the launch of UberPOOL across seven cities in India, we’ve started tackling an even greater challenge: reducing congestion and pollution in our cities by getting more people into fewer cars.

Over time, we harnessed our technology to solve for some of the most complex problems and urban infrastructure challenges that cities face today.

We are confident that ride-sharing is going to be the future of urban mobility and we will be focusing our energies a lot more in helping build awareness of this mode of transportation.

In terms of private ride sharing, how far has your conversation with authorities come? What is the next step forward?

We are committed to the cause, there is a real alternative to a world that moves like a jam and looks like a parking lot. Ridesharing is the future of urban mobility, helping decongest cities by getting more people into fewer cars and letting riders move around their city more affordably.

In this regard, the recommendations mentioned in the Central Govt’s guidelines are encouraging. The committee’s vision on future of transportation is very forward looking. The report extensively talks about the need for liberalizing regulations to promote use of public transport and discouraging private car ownership.

By highlighting how every shared car can take 9-13 vehicles off the road, the guidelines make a strong case for shared transportation. It is our hope that governments respond to the challenges and opportunities discussed in the guidelines and take a progressive stand for the future of our cities.

Your reactions to the passage of the MV bill?

This is a transformative piece of legislation and marks the official recognition of the ridesharing industry in India. Many of the provisions laid down in the bill are visionary and have the potential to change the urban mobility landscape of the country. We are excited at the prospect of how this paves the way for the future of transport in India.

What do you think are the key game-changing provisions in the Bill?

It’s very heartening to see how the Indian government has managed to stay in sync with the times and aligned the laws to reflect the changed mobility environment. Today, millions of riders depend on ridesharing apps to move around in cities. It’s also helping create livelihood opportunities for lakhs of driver-partners across India and transforming the socioeconomic landscape of our cities. It was the need of hour for the government to recognise and embrace it. We are glad that with this ground breaking piece of legislation, ridesharing industry has been recognized. The law clearly distinguishes ridesharing companies as separate from the taxi industry and places a special emphasis on the impact of technology in the changing times. The bill demonstrates the future first and pro-innovation approach of the ministry.

For the first time, there is discussion around any new form of mechanically-propelled vehicles in the interest of promoting research and innovation. The ambit of coverage under this could include everything from driverless cars, aerial vehicles VTOLs (Vertical take-helpoff and landing) to electric vehicles. Uber is working in this space and is committed to introducing technologically advanced solutions to support Urban Mobility.

How do you see this affecting regulations in states especially Maharashtra and Karnataka etc?

The revised bill clearly expects states to issue licenses to aggregators as per central government guidelines. The new Act also significantly empowers states to make changes in permit conditions for public interest. For instance, the bill recognises the need to waive or modify permit conditions for use of vehicles if it’s in the interest of last mile connectivity, reducing traffic congestion, improving urban transport, ensuring better utilisation of transportation assets and enhancing integration and connectivity of the transportation system, across and between modes of transport.We expect that these progressive regulations will pave the way for State Governments to accept and embrace technological advancements to promote smart and sustainable transport.

What is the current operational status with regards to UberMOTO? How many cities?

UberMOTO is currently active in four cities including Gurgaon, Faridabad, and Hyderabad and most recently Jaipur. We intend to roll it out in other key cities over time. We are committed to provide last mile connectivity at affordable price. UberMOTO will help realize the vision.

Besides last mile connectivity, what are the other benefits Uber sees in bike taxis?

In addition to the cost savings, an important element of this product that is likely to make it the preferred choice of commute are shorter travel times. Riders can save time traveling by motorbike when and where it makes sense, such as for short trips in heterogeneous traffic that’s more easily navigated via a small vehicle, or where public transport isn’t easily accessible or convenient. Since motorbikes are relatively cheaper than cars, the lower cost barrier of uberMOTO makes it even easier for more people to pursue this micro-entrepreneurship opportunity. Furthermore, uberMOTO encourages utilising existing bikes -- so individuals who already own motorcycles can become entrepreneurs on Uber’s platform in a seamless manner.

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