Uber plots course for personal mobility over car hire

Jump Bikes owner Uber will prioritise investment in personal mobility such as electric bikes and scooters, boss Dara Khosrowshahi has told the Financial Times. 

Acknowledging that the move will likely harm short-term profits, the investment in fleets of electric bikes and scooters is part of the companies long-term vision for compact urban spaces.

“During rush-hour, it is very inefficient for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person ten blocks,” Khosrowshahi told the paper.

“No one product is going to be serving that whole market,” he added on the evolving mobility picture.

The long-term vision is said to be part of a bid to grab share of a market said to be worth north of £4.7 trillion. The $200 million April acquisition of electric bicycle sharing business Jump has seen certain cities include bike sharing icons on the Uber app in a bid to familiarise the car-sharing clientele and introduce more people to two-wheel transport for shorter journeys.

As an aside to Jump, Uber also invested in Lime, an electric scooter sharing business that operates in much the same way as app-activated bicycles.

The short-term implications of this strategy are costing Uber, however. The business is said to have lost $4.5 billion in 2017.

“Short-term financially, maybe it’s not a win for us, but strategically long term we think that is exactly where we want to head,” said Khosrowshahi.

Uber’s position in the UK has, at times, been put on ice. At the present time it has been granted a 15-month provisional licence to operate in the capital, something gained after an appeal against a ruling that it was not operating as a “fit and proper” private hire business.

As an aside to this, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has similarly indicated that a cap may be required on Uber’s car fleet at a time when the city needs to reduce congestion.

As far as Europe goes, Berlin is touted to be the first city to host Jump e-Bikes. Stateside eight U.S. cities carry the electric hire bikes.

Uber, which has competitors for this slice of urban mobility business, is soon expected to be floated on the stock market. Among investors in the firm, Toyata has reportedly just sunk $500 million into the business in a collaborative bid to advance driverless car technology.