By Jambu Palaniappan
Technology developments in the transport ecosystem will allow more flexibility, more freedom, greater efficiency, and more security and safety.
As the world’s population becomes increasingly more urban, our cities, already bursting at the seams - continue to grow even larger. This brings with it some obvious issues, not least of which is congestion and the overcapacity of transportation options on our roads.
So as the average car lies unused for almost 23 hours a day, making it one of the least-used assets in our society, public authorities that provide and maintain public infrastructure are beginning to grapple with some very serious questions. How do we better optimise our resources? How do we encourage society to move towards the realisation of smarter cities? And what role does technology play in the new transport ecosystem?
To answer these questions – and more – we first need to look at what smart cities actually are, and where we see opportunity for regional governments.
At the centre of this evolution within the region has been a climate of renewed innovation, competition and choice – brought on by three specific trends: multi-modal, integrated, and data-driven solutions.
To truly call itself multi-modal, a city must boast an ecosystem of transportation options that eliminate the need for private car ownership. So by recognising the unused potential of network technologies for their cities, governments in the region have allowed services such as Uber’s to gain significant ground in recent years.
What this means is that transportation coverage now extends beyond the limits of typical public transportation- areas that may previously have been severely underserved. The net result is that in Dubai, for instance, places like Motor City and Sports City are growing at a faster rate for us than the whole of Dubai.
Another litmus test for a city’s smart city vision is how well they manage to integrate digital processes, fostering the so-called glocalisation of cutting-edge technology. These cities are leading destinations for global tourism, and recognise that to complement this, seamless, integrated solutions that help people travel from A to B in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible are necessary. In the context of our own company, to use just one example, 50 percent of Uber rides now taken in Dubai are requested by tourists who benefit from the seamless integration of the Uber experience into a myriad amount of other applications.
The final cog in the transport-planning machine is data modelling. Increasingly, as transport planners look to improve the performance of their existing systems, road network data is becoming even more critical. Tracking these patterns will be vital, for if we better understand peoples’ movements, we can help to improve resource allocation and ease congestion- transforming how we go about our daily lives.
And it is our responsibility as a member of the transportation community to contribute to smart city planning- with our rich, real-time data and world-class data science team, we’re in a great position to help cities in the region move towards a smarter, more data-driven future.
In the next year, we are going to see a rapid consolidation of much of this technology. The value that it will have on our lives is hard to quantify at this point, but this shift towards a smart transport ecosystem makes clear economic sense, helping to address real urban predicaments such as car ownership costs and congestion in the process – both real issues in the likes of Dubai and Riyadh.
At Uber, we are very proud to be a part of all this. Not only will these advances allow us to get from point A to point B in a more seamless manner than ever before, but the implications are much grander. Technology developments in the transport ecosystem will allow more flexibility, more freedom, greater efficiency, and, more security and safety- making the cities of the GCC smarter cities in the process.
Jambu Palaniappan, Regional General Manager, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa of Uber.