Uber is an app-based ridesharing service that allows consumers with Smartphones to submit a trip request. Connecting riders and drivers by the tap of a button, the service was first introduced in San Francisco in 2010, rapidly and globally expanding – reaching Dubai in 2013 as the 44th city in which it launched, along with 10 other cities in the MENA region.
With the number of tourist to double by 2020, Uber’s vision in Dubai is to a partnership with the Dubai government for Smart mobility to reduce traffic and emission in the city through Uber’s carpooling service, UberPool.
UberPool allows multiple riders to split the cost of fares, if they are headed in the same direction or to the same general area. This service is already running in several of Uber’s largest markets such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Paris.
“Our founder’s vision is to make transportation as reliable and efficient as possible. One of his visions is to see more people share rides together because you’d be driving with even more efficiency. Carpooling is not a new concept but very difficult to automate and that is what Uber is trying to do with UberPool,” Jean-Pierre Mondalek, General Manager at Uber UAE, says.
Carpool rides take a lot of cars off the road. Instead of having an Uber car for each individual, many users can share one single Uber car, which “allows more efficiency, brings the cost further down and makes the whole decision of whether to own a car puts it into more perspective,” especially in a market where the cost of parking, fuel prices and cost of ownership is high, all while reducing traffic congestion on roads.
“Even the very affluent markets like San Francisco, people are opting to carpool. The vision for Uber, not just in Dubai, but globally, is to see UberPool everywhere because it is the right thing for the environment and for cities,” Mondalek says. “The more cars are on the road, the more infrastructure and roads need to be built.”
“Individuals using their cars to share their vehicles – that is very much the future and we would love to see this coming,” he adds.
Carpooling – a new concept in Dubai
Last month, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) launched ‘Sharekni’, a Smart app that enables groups of riders to share vehicles while travelling from and to their workplaces.
“This clearly shows you that the Dubai government is thinking about people carpooling,” Mondalek says. “Carpooling is becoming evident in the market place.”
“What we have is the technology to automate that because the way Sharekni works is that you go on a website and register, and they match for you. With Uber, what’s happening is other riders on the way get asked if they would like to share the ride. The rider makes a decision to whether they want to share or not, which brings down the cost of the ride. That’s called a ‘match’,” Mondalek explains.
“You save money, you save the environment and you better utilize the cars that are already registered out on the road,” he adds.
Uber: the complementor
“We don’t see ourselves as a competitor – we see ourselves as a ‘complementor’ to public transportation,” Mondalek says.
“As a licensed technology, in the UAE, it is very important for us adhere to local regulation and one of these regulations in Dubai is that private hired vehicle services need to be priced at least 30 per cent above taxi,” he explains.
Despite the fact that Uber is more expensive, “the convenience, the reliability and the safety factor that you know who the driver, what the license plate number is and you get to see the ratings is why people opt to use Uber,” Mondalek says.