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๐Ÿข ๐Ÿš™ ๐Ÿค– Issue 26: car ownership, the philosophy of AVs and not-so-smart cities

๐Ÿข ๐Ÿš™ ๐Ÿค– Issue 26: car ownership, the philosophy of AVs and not-so-smart cities
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Next week, Iโ€™ll be looking at the built world and AR - so send me through any interesting thought pieces or views.

Thought(s)
Ride-sharing and car ownership - Uber have raised over $14bn (excluding secondaries) in equity fund, a quite staggering amount. Much of this was masterminded by the now defunct management of Travis and Emil Michael. The pitch relied in part on a few visionary mid-term asssumptions:
1) Ride-sharing would disrupt car ownership: Car utilisation is in the low-single digit percentage, so why spend all that cash on a stationary vehicle
2) Lower car ownership and ride-sharing will dramatically reduce the amount of traffic in cities: Single passengers travelling and parking a car is inefficient and costly
3) Autonomous vehicles will further accelerate points 1 and 2
Now, whilst the pitch was evidently more all encompassing, these tenets went some way to justifying ride-sharing and more specifically Uber as an inevitable intra-city transport utility. More importantly, they also explained away some eye watering negative net profit margins. Today, nearly a decade after Uberโ€™s founding we can take a more sober view of these assumptions.
Did ridesharing disrupt car ownership? This article written Uber PM, John Nickels, looks at the evolution of products such as Black, Pool and now ExpressPool. Interestingly, ride sharing only accounts for 1% of US vehicle miles travelled (VMT) / 6% of VMT in San Francisco. To date, the relatively low cost of ride sharing (thanks venture backed subsidies!) has predominantly disrupted public transportation, not cars. Which brings us onto point two; did ride-sharing dramatically reduce the amount of traffic in cities? In short no, ride sharing has actually increased the amount of VMT within cities, adding to congestion. As covered by a number of research pieces, like this comprehensive report by Bruce Schaller:
โ€œTNCs [transport network companies] added 976 million miles of driving to New York City streets from 2013 to 2017.โ€
John Nickels, concludes that in order for city specifc VMT and car ownership to drop a number of factors need to take place. These, amongst others, being:
Increased utilisation of a vehicles capacity; a car transporting one individual is not efficient. This is a driver and passenger problem that dynamic routing such as UberPool is trying to solve
Layering of micro-mobility; such as scooters or bikes - matching multiple riders with one vehicle in peak times is likely less effective than passengers travelling under a couple of miles finding alternate transport. This current opportunity is graphically represented by Horace Dediu, co-founder at Nere (full deck here):
Autonomy; which again brings us to our last point. Whilst autonomy has always been heralded as Uberโ€™s clear margin expander, ridding itself of driver commissions. Itโ€™s clear that reducing vehicle numbers in the context of ride sharing will require consumers to become more comfortable with shared vehicle services, which autonomous vehicles lend themselves well to. Though in post-Travis times, Uberโ€™s autonomous ambitions have taken a backseat (Iโ€™m allowed one pun) to its multi-modal ambitions.
In the not too distant future, we could see Uber as one of the demand-side networks which services automobile OEMsโ€™ autonomous fleets. You could be cruising around in one of these Mercedes Benz Urbanetic vehicles ๐Ÿ˜Ž
Vague Scientist
Forbes interview with Indexโ€™s Mike Volpi - Volpi is a GP at Index Ventures, a board member of Chrysler-Fiat and a thought leader on autonomous vehicles. He claims AVs could be close to commercialisation in places like Boston in as soon as 18 months. Volpi is also an investor and board member at autonomous startup Aurora, which Wired covers this week in this fascinating piece
Opendoor makes its first acquisition - the ibuyer poster child has just acquired OpenListings, which concentrates on removing friction from the buyer side
KPMGโ€™s Autonomous Readiness Report - this report indexes various countries AV readiness, across technology, policy, infrastructure and consumer sentiment. The report unfortunately doesnโ€™t specify individual cities, though this may less important for The Netherlands and Singapore which are ranked 1st and 2nd respectively
Amazon is stuffing its advertising channels - the companyโ€™s march towards taking market share from Google and Facebook continues apace
AVs and the trolley problem - The World Economic Forum looks at the philosophy of AVs, specifically how a vehicle should determine which danger to purposefully divert towards during a collision (crash into an elederly couple or a teenager?). At a time when the ethics of black box AIs is being further scrutinised and AV accidents are becoming more prevalent, this will remain an important and fiercely debated issue
Uber launches its own payment wallet - Uber has launched its own payment wallet and formalises its rewards program. This is in addition to its credit card - which provides higher rewards for restaurant purcahses. The wallet is designed to be used within Uberโ€™s ecosystem of products such as ride-sharing, Eats, Jump Bikes etc. Itโ€™s not unlikely this new wallet will encourage more frequent use of UberEats, a big growth area for the company
Sidewalk Labs smart city - doesnโ€™t seem as smart as once hoped. The development of Seattleโ€™s Waterfront has hit a few snags
WeWork makes a software acquisition - they just paid $100m for Teem, a maker of office management software. This acquisition smacks of two things, a company with too much cash and too little software engineering talent
New Yorkโ€™s Free LinkNYC Kiosks are tracking you - though this really shouldnโ€™t be of surprise, thereโ€™s no such thing as a free lunch ;)
Thanks for reading
Sam
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Sam Cash // Physical World Technologies Newsletter

The intersection of the physical world and technology; with a focus on future mobility,real estate, retail and cities.

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