With IPO due, Uber aims to be ‘Amazon of transportation’

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A jump electric bicycle and scooters available to rent by-the-mile through the Uber smartphone application in Santa Monica, California. (AFP)
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Above, women ride shared electric scooters in Santa Monica, California. (AFP)
Updated 03 March 2019
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With IPO due, Uber aims to be ‘Amazon of transportation’

  • Uber lays out vision of a transformed world of personal mobility as it steers toward a keenly anticipated stock market debut
  • ‘The vision is to be an all-in-one app for all your transportation needs’

SANTA MONICA, United States: Uber, the ridesharing behemoth set to launch a stock offering soon, is aiming beyond sharing car rides to becoming the “Amazon of transportation” in a future where people share instead of owning vehicles.
Uber laid out its vision of a transformed world of personal mobility as it steered toward a keenly anticipated stock market debut that will follow an initial public offering of shares by US rideshare rival Lyft announced on Friday.
“Cars really were, for us, a kind of starting place,” said transportation policy and research chief Andrew Salzberg at an Uber media event in Santa Monica, California.
“Once we’ve built this platform for mobility there are a whole host of business lines we can build beyond that.”
The Southern California beach city was teeming with electric scooters and bicycles from Uber and rivals that may be checked out with a smartphone app.
“The idea that every time you walk outside there is this electric, fun-to-ride vehicle waiting to take you to your next destination is really incredible,” said Nick Foley, head of product for Jump, the electric bike startup acquired by Uber.
“It’s more than just an app to book a bike; it’s an app where you can have reliable micro mobility booking or a could book a car if the weather isn’t nice.”
Foley believed that a shift to mobility as a smartphone-summoned-service will alter lifestyles as dramatically as did the mass market debut of the automobile.
Combining electric motors with light-weight scooters or bicycles, and having them on streets to be used on demand, provides an ideal method of getting around in traffic-troubled cities, according to Uber.
Electric bicycles and scooters can get people efficiently to destinations in congested downtowns, where they can switch to public transit or car ride sharing at their convenience.
Uber’s effort to be an all-encompassing platform for getting around includes adding e-scooter rival Lime and city transit services to its smartphone application, along with improving features designed to get people to travel together instead of riding solo.
The California-based startup’s collaboration with cities includes sharing anonymous traffic flow data with officials in charge of public transit, bicycle lanes, parking and road planning.
Uber is also integrating transit schedules into its app, and will soon add a way to pay fares as well.
“We can’t really be the Amazon for transportation without the biggest mode of transportation out there, which is public transport,” said Uber transit team leader David Reich.
“The vision is to be an all-in-one app for all your transportation needs.”
If all goes to plan, commuters could ride an e-scooter to a transit station, take a train then grab an e-bike, ride share or e-scooter at the arriving station to complete a journey.
Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi has made a priority of working with transit agencies, according to Reich.
Jump has leapt into 16 US cities, and planned to expand internationally this year beginning in Europe, according to founder and chief executive Ryan Rzepecki.
“I think we are in year zero of a 10-year, mega-cultural shift,” Rzepecki said.
E-scooters and dockless bikes arriving on streets of US cities have caused complaints, safety concerns, and the need for laws to reign in reckless riding.
“For as much cultural change we have been seeing in cities, I think the pushback has been incredibly low,” Rzepecki said, however.
He was excited to get Jump into Europe, where he felt cities were more inclined to be designed with bicycling in mind.
Uber is also taking to the sky with an Elevate project to have electric aircraft carry people between “skyports,” taking off and landing vertically.
Director of vehicle systems engineering Mark Moore, who spent decades at NASA, joined Uber a little more than two years ago.
“We are one of the very big, bold bets that is coming up with a whole new choice of transportation in cities faced with gridlock really grinding them to a halt,” Moore said of Elevate.
He expected experimental flights next year, with Uber putting Elevate aircraft into service in Dallas, Los Angeles, and a soon-to-be revealed third US city by 2023, pledging to make this an affordable travel option.
“We have zero interest in doing this for the elites,” Moore said.
“This is all about designing a nodal transport system that meets the needs of cities.”
Uber’s platform moves cargo as well as people, with a “Freight” service that connects truckers with shippers in a way similar to how drivers connect with people seeking rides.
Uber is also seeing growing success with an “Eats” service that lets drivers make money delivering meals ordered from restaurants.
Uber is the largest and most prominent of the “sharing economy” startups that are on the cusp of transforming several industries, and its IPO could be a milestone for the trend.
“When Uber goes public it will be a vote of confidence on the sharing economy but also a vote confidence on the company,” said New York University professor Arun Sundararajan.


Gulf countries strengthen oil coordination amid tensions: Kuwait

Updated 20 May 2019
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Gulf countries strengthen oil coordination amid tensions: Kuwait

  • ‘It is normal amid this escalation that Kuwait and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries take these steps’
  • Kuwait was in ‘constant contact’ with its ally, the US

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister said countries in the Gulf have strengthened coordination to provide oil to global markets amid increased regional tensions.
“It is normal amid this escalation that Kuwait and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries take these steps,” Khalid Al-Jarallah told reporters late Sunday on the sidelines of a Ramadan sit-down organized by the Iraqi embassy.
“There is cooperation and coordination between Kuwait and the Gulf countries to provide guarantees for oil tankers and continuous supply of energy to global markets.”
Jarallah’s comments come days after sabotage attacks against tankers in highly sensitive Gulf waters and the bombing of a Saudi pipeline — the latter claimed by Iran-aligned Yemeni rebels.
Both attacks targeted routes built as alternatives to the Strait of Hormuz, the conduit for almost all Gulf exports.
The US Fifth Fleet headquartered in Bahrain said the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council began “enhanced security patrols” Saturday in international waters, in “tight coordination with the US navy.”
Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the strait in case of war with the United States, which earlier this month announced it was sending an aircraft carrier and strike group to the region.
Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister said “tension was escalating quickly” but he remained hopeful.
He added Kuwait was in “constant contact” with its ally, the US.
On Saturday, OPEC giant Saudi Arabia called for urgent meetings of the GCC and the Arab League to discuss recent “aggressions and their consequences” in the region.
The two summits are scheduled to be held in Makkah on May 30.
Jarallah welcomed the kingdom’s invitation, saying Kuwait was keen to take part in discussions on issues “potentially dangerous” to the region.