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Uber Has Right Idea: Multi-Mobility

Uber recently turned a very important corner, a development that I see as being just about as big as the company’s founding itself. The company now seems very serious about creating a smart, multi-modal mobility “platform” that will ultimately enable millions of people to trade-out of car ownership for good.

The company’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, has unveiled Uber’s new strategy, including the acquisition of a leading bike-share company and new partnerships that will better link millions of users to public transit and nearby carsharing services.

This will all lead to your Uber app becoming a robust, multi-mobility “aggregator” that will ultimately offer seamless mobility to anywhere you need to go. Users will be able to tell the app where they want to go and choose if they want the fastest route, perhaps a lower priced route or a journey offering a little exercise along the way. The Uber app will then figure out the route, choosing between a multitude of different available mobility services and considering the user's preferences. It's going to be very cool.

Uber seems to now understand they can make significantly more revenue when car ownership is reduced. They seem focused on having the right mobility options, where the user needs them, and for their user to no longer need to own their car.

A conservative estimate of what Americans pay for our cars each year is around $1.7-trillion. This massive number makes the just over $20-billion Uber has raised look tiny. (My calculation: 250 million cars times $7K/year).

I consider Manhattan, downtown Chicago and San Francisco as dense “thick” cities. In these locations, consumers already have better public transit options than are available elsewhere, and other important new mobility options are becoming available. There is less car ownership in these areas, and Uber’s new seamless multimobility platform will ultimately enable millions to finally sell their cars, unclog our major urban freeways, and save consumers thousands each year.

In our “thin” city suburban areas, where half of Americans live, most people own a car and Uber gets only a small fraction of the consumer’s yearly transportation spending. The company drives a lot of people home from bars or parties, or takes folks to the airport. But the average consumer spends far more on their private car.

I like to think of these many new mobility services and the upcoming Uber multimobilty app as being “gears” and “grease”. San Francisco is a good model city for the new Uber, as its JUMP shared e-bikes and a good carshare network are now available. With so many traditional Uber drivers and these many complimentary services, Uber has a lot of “gears” in this dense city.

But Uber has a lot of work in front of it to get all of these new services online in hundreds of other major cities. The upcoming multimobility app, the “grease,” can’t make up for services that are in the wrong location or don’t exist.

Adding (many new) gears in thin cities will also come. I expect we will see all-new services (or models) that offer consumers in these areas new bundles of mobility services, aiming to replace a household’s second car.

Even if you can’t imagine multimobility replacing car ownership in suburbia today, I expect we will see Uber focus on this market as well, as there is so much social good and potential revenue to be had.

Two years ago, Uber founder Travis Kalanick announced at the TED Conference that Uber will replace the private car. But at that time the company was making bold yet less-focused investments (on self-driving cars, automated semi trucks and far out taxi-drones ventures).

Ultimately, autonomous shared mobility services will offer billions of consumers amazing new daily mobility options without needing to own an automobile. I feel Uber is very smart to focus on the multimobility platform, even before autonomous mobility comes online.

Uber’s purchase of JUMP bikeshare brings the company Ryan Rzepecki, a new multimobility leader to help Uber’s CEO create this future. Ryan is one of the smart mobility thought leaders in the U.S. who has known for more than a decade how important the broader multimodal mobility platform approach is to disrupting the automobile world. Ryan knows how to leverage new technologies to get great results for both consumers and cities.

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