Uber, the caring sharing economy and autonomous cars

Written by on May 27, 2016 in Opinion with 0 Comments

the-winning-hand-1316466-1279x1003Whatever anyone says about Uber, it is a fascinating company. Based on an idea that, when it was founded, was completely radical, it has raised tens of billions of dollars in funding. It is just about beginning to make a profit, in some regions, and is making eye watering losses in others. Its success is also based on taking on a unionised, organised and deeply entrenched industry, and winning. It has battled regulators, unions and cab drivers. It has weathered law suits, murder stories, rape allegations and more. It has scared the 100 year old car industry into investing in the company (and others) rather than competing. It has even become a verb, a sure sign that it has caught our attention.

It continues to innovate and do deals.

Two recent ones catch the eye.

Toyota has announced a partnership with Uber to provide leasing options to Uber drivers. Whilst this makes sense, the deal also allows both companies to ‘share knowledge and accelerate their research efforts’.

A similar deal, this time with Sidian Bank in Kenya, allows drivers to buy their cars out the income they get from driving. Or, as the CEO of Sidian rather poetically put it, the deal is part of their mission “enabling individuals to own their tomorrow”.

It is also leveraging the ride sharing business with its UberRush fast deliveries and UberEats, which is busy disrupting the logistics and food delivery industry.

The investment in ride sharing companies is even more eye watering. Some recent examples:

  • Volkswagen invests $300 million in Gett
  • GM invests $500 million in Lyft
  • Apple invests $1 billion in Didi Chuxing

And the companies that are investing in Uber reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of investment firms.

Of course, it is not just about the sharing economy, which will grow from revenues last year of $6.4 billion to $20 billion in 2020, according to Juniper Research.

It is about fear.

If (and frankly it is a big if) people want to stop owning cars and pay for their trips by the minute or the mile, then this disruption will cause huge shock waves. And on the basis that if you cannot beat them, join them, tech companies, investment banks, the car industry and probably many others are investing in the autonomous car.

Yet no-one knows where the money is, and, for lack of concrete answers, everyone thinks it might come from the ‘data’.

Unless someone knows something that we, mere mortals, don’t, then does it really add up? Is it, in fact, a gamble, with stakes in the hundreds of billions of dollars?

We, and others, do not believe that autonomous cars are going to arrive as quickly as the hype would have us believe. Nor do the drivers, it seems.

We, and others, believe that there will be a backlash against the use of personal data, so the money coming from this source cannot be guaranteed.

We, and others, believe that Health and Safety and the Regulator are still a way away from being entirely happy with autonomous cars, whatever the politicians say. It is also true to say that the idea of insuring people to drive cars on a dynamic, real-time basis fills the vast majority of actuaries with complete dread.

Call us spoilsports if you like, but the hundreds of billions being invested directly or indirectly in autonomous cars, seems like a hell of a gamble, given the shroud that seems to be descending on the timescales, indeed the whole enterprise.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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