Ride-sharing has triggered a revolution in the transport industry, with new and intelligent systems set to shake up all aspects of transportation for people and goods.
Uber recently hosted a Urban Mobility Summit where over 30 changemakers in transport, tourism, education and government met to discuss the future of transport in South Africa. A panel of world-leading analysts, consultants and leaders offered pertinent insights and practical solutions to building a sustainable transport system in South Africa that benefits all. The following trends emerged from the summit.
Overall, transport is changing for the better. Lorenzo Floramonti, professor at the University of Pretoria, put forward a positive vision for the future, where society is embracing new technology and innovation if it has a positive impact on their lives. In this sense, the heart of enhancement to transport systems lies in the improvement of passengers’ wellbeing and the upliftment of local economies.
Most people have embraced Uber’s technology because of the cost savings it brings to their lifestyle and the efficiency it’s added to travel in cities across the world. Services such as Uber will continue to grow if they combine smart technology with a strong social role in every country they operate.
Trends point to a need for change. Santosh Rao Danda, EMEA research scientist for Uber noted that there are over one billion two hundred million cars in the world. In South Africa alone, one in five people own a vehicle. However, more and more people are realising that this lifestyle is not sustainable from an environmental and financial perspective. In South Africa, almost twenty thousand riders are using Uber more than ten times a week which suggests a clear shift in car ownership behaviour.
Transportation accounts for 22% of all carbon emissions which causes air pollution, and 10% of millennial Uber riders have given up their cars or not purchased one at all. Today, ride-hailing accounts for 4% of all miles driven globally, with this figure expected to increase to 25% by 2030.
Mpumi Mpofu, former director-general of the National Department of Transport, stated that: “Intelligent transport systems will lead the way in enhancing road safety and integrated law enforcement. Cities can expect exciting new technology such a drones, dashcams and vehicle testing of speed over distance as new tools emerge to encourage responsible driving. While Uber is pioneering the use of technology to monitor safety, cities are introducing new technologies.”
The mayoral committee member for transport and urban development in Cape Town, Brett Herron added that, in Cape Town for example, WiFi is available on the BRT buses, as well as an integrated ticketing system. There are also talks with taxi associations to put in place digital taxi operating systems.
Marek Hanusch of the World Bank noted that more job opportunities are critical to reducing poverty in South Africa. While this will not eliminate poverty entirely, it will improve the lives and families of many.
Cities also need to acknowledge the needs of the poor. Many of the poor move to cities to find work, but struggle to afford transportation or sustain themselves. Cities need to, therefore, accommodate the needs of all income brackets in their planning. Leaders in tech also need to find ways of using their technology to adapt and create efficient, accessible transport systems.
Philip van Ryneveld, Open Streets advisory board member and transport consultant, said: “We need to spend our budgets on the improvement of private & public transportation systems.”
Edgar Pieters, director of African Centre for Cities’ SA research chair in urban planning expanded on this, illustrating how public investments in the built environment of African cities often display an elite/middle-class bias. Transport is key to the improvement of Africa’s current infrastructure crisis, as it holds the potential to level the playing field.
Richard Gordge, CEO of Transport Futures, says this requires a paradigm shift in planning which rethinks our local centres, streets and public transport systems in order to serve local communities.
Rehana Moosajee, Founder of Rehana Moosajee Consulting emphasised: “Everything and everyone is moving so fast without stopping to reflect about what we are doing. We do not understand what it is we are doing and what we are trying to achieve. For example, we need to think of our future generations by making walking and cycling or even taking public transport to school or work safe again through finding other alternatives.”
Ultimately, an affordable, safe and reliable transport system is about more than mobility, it’s about a social movement centred on wellbeing.
South Africans still need to be encouraged to use seatbelts, reduce their speed and stop drinking and driving. Mpofu added: “Uber contributes greatly to road safety in South Africa through the collection of data and identification of hazardous areas. Technology gives us great potential to help South African drivers take personal responsibility in road safety.”