Uber's latest ambitions worry rivals
Khosrowshahi: Targets public transportation
Uber, fresh from settling a potentially damaging trade secrets lawsuit this month, has thrown itself into the aggressive expansion and experimentation that marked its early rise. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has even named a new competitor: public transportation.
“I want to run the bus systems for a city,” Khosrowshahi said this month at a tech conference hosted by Goldman Sachs in San Francisco. “I want you to be able to take an Uber and get into the subway … get out and have an Uber waiting for you.”
While the executive’s ambitions may seem like a natural expansion of Uber’s ride-hailing business, competitors see it as the early makings of a transportation monopoly. And with a mobility services market that PwC estimates to be worth $172.6 billion in four years, there’s plenty of gold in the transportation hills.
In late January, Uber said it was partnering with bike-rental startup Jump to allow San Francisco customers to book bikes through its app. On Feb. 21, the app rolled out a feature it had been testing in select cities, called Uber Express Pool, that coordinates carpooling customers to meet at a shared pickup and drop-off location for a reduced cost.
But critics and competitors say Uber’s ambitions could be bad for the transportation services market.
“Monopolies rarely benefit consumers and often create impediments and limitations by asserting control as to when, where, how and the cost for people to move from A to B,” said Liad Itzhak, head of Here Mobility, a division of high-definition mapping company Here Technologies. “This does not seem like a winning equation for consumers.”
Here Mobility, whose parent company is jointly owned by BMW, Daimler and Audi, introduced its own transportation aggregation platform in January at the CES tech conference. The service enables companies to incorporate travel options into their websites or apps — such as booking an Uber ride to the airport on the United Airlines app after making flight reservations.
Aggregation apps from carmakers such as PSA Group and Ford Motor Co. and tech companies such as Moovel Group have become popular for companies trying to make sense of a chaotic service landscape. Itzhak says there’s an added benefit to aggregation: market competition to offset individual companies’ price domination.
“We are building a mobility market, a mobility ecosystem,” Itzhak told Automotive News in January. “We are building a neutral platform that brings together consumers and suppliers, but we don’t stop there. We will provide tools to create a competitive marketplace to allow everyone to play in the game.”