How Technology is Driving Urban Mobility: The Uber Example


Lola Kassim

In many bustling urban cities around the world, policy makers and regulators are becoming increasingly focused on creating sustainable solutions that effectively address the rising vehicular congestion that these cities experience.

In Lagos, Nigeria, traffic and congestion is something inhabitants grapple with on a daily basis. According to recent reports made by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, the population of Lagos State now stands at over 24 million – equivalent in number to 30 African cities combined.

By 2050, it is estimated that the population of Lagos could top 35 million. These growth will no doubt put additional pressure on the city’s infrastructure. Perhaps a crucial question is: how will the inhabitants of Lagos get from point A to B? What transportation systems and infrastructure are needed to serve the rapidly burgeoning population?

Last year, Governor Ambode reinforced this sentiment in his plans to replace the yellow buses popularly known as “danfo” with a more efficient bus transport system in Lagos State.

This is no doubt a positive development as it is indicative of an intention to reduce congestion and pollution, as well as pave the way for an efficient mass transportation system that would move Lagos faster towards its goal of becoming a Smart City. In envisioning Lagos as a Smart City, specifically within the transportation and mobility sectors, it is important to begin to think of a city where we have fewer vehicles on the roads and there is convenient access to other mobility options such as rail, waterways, air, etc., for people to move around.

We must also begin to think about the fact that fewer cars on the roads naturally means a decrease in carbon emissions and congestion. This also means that places in cities previously set aside and designed around cars, such as wide roads for high traffic volumes as well as space-intensive parkades and parking lots, can be given back to the city and its people. What could this mean for a city like Lagos? Think of a greener, less congested, and more liveable city.

At Uber, we believe that a better future is within our grasp. One of our core objectives is to support and complement existing public transportation infrastructure. Through cars registered to use the Uber App, we are helping commuters cover the “last mile” of their journeys around the world. In cities like Amsterdam and London, for example, over 25% of Uber rides during morning rush hour go to and from local train stations, further establishing that people use Uber to complement existing forms of transportation.

We believe that shared mobility enabled by technology has the potential to contribute to better and more efficient cities. This is why we are partnering with public transport providers and other app-based mobility solutions (such as car and bike sharing services) around the world.

In the near future, it will be entirely possible to complete certain journeys across cities utilizing many options made possible via the Uber Platform App. A rider’s daily commute could be completed using one or more options like a shared JUMP bike, uberPOOL or, uberX. While not all of these options are currently available in Africa – it does mean that some of the solutions to creating less congested cities already exist. And for a megacity like Lagos, this is definitely a positive development.

Uber is expanding its offerings to help create a new future of transportation – one that reduces individual car ownership, expands access to transportation and helps governments plan future transportation investments. From bikes to pooled rides, we are always looking to offer more ways to get around without needing to own or buy a car.

A year ago at the first Uber Elevate Summit, we announced our initial partnerships with companies that make aircrafts, high speed chargers and manage major real estate portfolios. We also unveiled a collaborative plan with the cities of Dallas and Fort-Worth to create the first metropolitan area in United States with an urban aviation rideshare network.

At this year’s Elevate Summit, our CEO Dara Khosrowshahi affirmed an upward shift in the mobility conversations saying: “We think cities are going to go vertical in terms of transportation, and we want to make that a reality.” With products like uberAIR we want to make it possible for people to push a button and get a flight – uberAIR takes that approach and our technology to new heights.

Technology is increasingly at the core of how people move around their cities and we must harness it to create sustainable options to drive transportation systems around the world. As Lagos, Nigeria and indeed the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa make the move towards enabling smart cities – technology will play a critical role in improving urban mobility.

Kassim is the General Manager West Africa, Uber and writes in from Lagos, Nigeria




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