"We continuously try to question the way we offer our service to them and adapt it so it works best for the passenger."
Uber is the hot topic in transport and has been for the past seven years since it is continually growing in popularity. Now operating in 570 cities worldwide it has taken the mobility world by storm. Every week in London alone 30,000 people downloads Uber to their phone which is benefiting a company which is now worth $60 billion. Recently, Uber integrated connecting times of public transport in the app in nearly 50 US cities. When riders are in an Uber and their destination is or a block away from a transit stop, they will begin showing them upcoming departure times in the Uber feed. The times will be refreshed regularly so riders have the latest information right at their fingertips. And if they want to learn more, one tap will take them to the Transit app for a-to-b directions, service disruption information, and more. To discover more about the revolutionary mobility app Emily O'Dowd spoke to Marius Macku, Senior Associate, Public Policy & Government Relations for Uber.
Emily O'Dowd (EOD): What do you enjoy most about your role?
Marius Macku (MM): I enjoy working for a company where you can really make a difference. Uber is not only about getting people form A to B but about getting rid of individual car-ownership and use as such. Taking into account that 12 percent of all CO2 emissions globally come from cars, getting this right is not only crucial for ourselves but also for generations to follow. Being an active part of this project is what makes me get up every day.
EOD: How do you ensure that you remain at the height of innovation?
MM:The great thing about Uber is that there is a real culture of entrepreneurship. People work project - and outcome - based with a lot of individual responsibility and quite a flat hierarchy. If you have a good idea, you go for it which is obviously great for innovation. Being an owner of projects pushes you to continuously give your best and feel like you can make a real impact.
EOD: What is the greatest challenge that you’ve faced in the industry?
MM: In 2010 we started with a simple problem: how do you get a ride at the touch of a button? Six years and more than two billion trips later, we’ve started tackling an even greater challenge: reducing congestion and pollution in our cities by getting more people into fewer cars and reducing car ownership.
EOD: What are the latest projects that you have been working on?
MM: Around the globe, Uber is partnering with actors that have an interest in increasing the use of shared mobility modes. This includes urban and long-distance rail but also public transport in general. Looking at our data today, we already see clear complementary effects between Uber and public transport. People are actively using Uber to complement to their train rides - for both long-haul and urban journeys. In fact, 30 percent of all trips in Brussels start or end near a metro or train station. Replicating railway and transport partnerships like we’ve done in the US with Transit and the town of Summit are a real priority in Europe and something we’re working on hard.
EOD: How do you ensure your customers receive the highest level of service?
MM: Uber is an app which has two customer bases - drivers and riders. Both come with different expectations and we try to offer the most convenient ways to meet their needs. While drivers want to get access to as many economic opportunities as possible, riders are looking for the most convenient way to get around their city. We continuously try to question the way we offer our service to them and adapt it so it works best for them.
EOD: How do you see urban mobility evolving over the next ten years?
MM: We will most definitely see a lot of changes over the coming years. Let’s take self-driving cars as an example: Not only will it allow us to drive in a car without having to control the speed or direction of the vehicle, but such cars could have a massive impact on the number of road-related deaths. Every year almost 1.3 million people die in car accidents of which over 90% are caused by human error. Once self-driving cars can be accessed and shared via applications like Uber, they could also have a huge potential in reducing congestion, by lowering our need for personal cars and our reliance on parkings. Shared self-driving cars have also the potential to increase the modal share of rail - for which first- and last-mile partnerships will be crucial. So overall I believe we will see a lot of changes in the next ten years.
EOD: To what extent has Uber changed the face of urban mobility?
MM: Today we use our cars very inefficiently. With the average car standing idle for 96% of the time, this means we actually only use it 4% and in those cases mostly by ourselves. For a normal car that means 3-4 unused seats taking a lot of space on the road. With our technology and products like uberPOOL, we try to get more people into fewer cars and provide people with an alternative to their private car. This impact is already being felt today: In the US almost 10% of millennials say they have either given up a car or not bought one because of applications like Uber. There is no doubt that within the next generation this number will increase and have an important impact in the way we use our cars today.
EOD: And finally, what’s your favourite rail journey?
MM: My favourite rail journey was in Thailand when I was backpacking across the entire country - heavily relying on night trains which are the most comfortable way to get around.
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