Sharing is Caring - Uber’s Australian Plans

If you are driving in the city with room on your back seat while someone needs a ride, why not take them! In today’s ‘sharing’ economy boom, Uber is one of the biggest names to reach our shores. ’Ride-sharing’ as it is known is fresh, innovative and turning transport on its head.

Uber is a great believer in driving innovation and puts its money where its mouth is, as supporters and sponsors of the Big Pitch – the $5 million pitch competition for entrepreneurs. Simon Rossi, Uber’s General Manager says: “It was only a handful of years ago that we were starting out, so we understand how, with the right support and backing of innovative ideas can create game-changers on a global scale.”

Uber has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Founded by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp in San Francisco in 2009, the duo started connecting riders with just a handful of private cars, a scrappy office and a single employee. Three years later, the company touched down in Sydney in late 2012 and launched Melbourne in March 2013. Uber is now driving its success across 128 cities in 37 countries. 

This month Uber founder Kalanick said: “Uber is changing the fabric of these cities. At our current rate, Uber is responsible for directly creating 20,000 new jobs per month and powering billions in economic impact in cities around the world – while also improving the environment, reducing DUI rates and fuelling urban economic development through the use of technology.”

Speaking from Melbourne, Rossi says Uber is boosting our local economy and reducing unemployment rates by providing flexible economic opportunities and a renewed confidence and purpose for people in-between jobs. “Uber driver partners use their own cars and so they operate at hours that suit them,” he says. “They can drive as much or as little as they like. This enables the drivers to support their studies, subsidise part-time employment or continue to job hunt if they are professionals out of work.” That’s what excites us – we are providing a great alternative in job creation.

In Australia alone, Rossi says Uber has already provided 1000s of opportunities for drivers to work more hours in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. Looking at other global cities where Uber is long established, Rossi says: Many of the new drivers in Australia’s cities were in-between work and have reversed their personal situations. For example in New York, the median average income for UberX drivers is more than $90,000. 

Besides a cash injection to our Australian cities Uber is proud of its social influence in reducing drink driving globally and hopes to make a difference on our streets. In Seattle, Uber claims it has decreased Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offences by more than 10 per cent. Their econometric study taken this May concluded that, “Uber’s network of safe, readily available rides have a meaningful and measurable impact on drunk driving in cities in which Uber operates freely… the data confirms the intuitive claim, backed up by countless anecdotes, that potential drunk drivers will choose other options, like rides with Uber, when they are convenient, affordable, and readily available.”  

With a cash-less and transparent system that humanises both the driver and rider by providing a profile, rating and giving feedback on each other, riders are reporting a better service and a more personal service. In return, drivers are given a greater sense of respect. With such a transparent and two-way dialogue, in Chicago Uber is said to be reducing taxi crime too. In 2011, Uber carried out a study that claims: “The results are suggestive and potentially large – the entry of Uber in Chicago appears to have significantly reduced the crime rate in taxicabs which was otherwise quite stable.  Compared to the 300 days before Uber entered, the rate of taxicab-located crimes decreased by 20 per cent in the 300 days after Uber entered.” 

“Taxi-crime exists in any city, and through Uber’s transparency we hope to see a similar reduction in Australian cities,” Rossi says. 

Finding it safer than standard taxis with its tracking option, driver and customer profiles and cash-free convenience, besides the predictable city and airport runs, families in the US are said to even be using Uber for doing the weekend sports runs for kids and evening pick-ups from parties.

From an environmental perspective, Uber is making inroads: “Instead of adding cars and pollution to our already grid-locked cities, Uber is making use of the existing infrastructure and cars that are already in circulation,” Rossi says. “We hope that by providing a more affordable, convenient, efficient and frequent ride-sharing service we will re-invent how our roads are used. We are encouraging people to leave their cars at home rather than drive to the city.”

“Eventually we hope to see families and professionals reducing (or eliminating) their need for a car or multiple cars,” Rossi says. “That’s a great win for the environment.” 

Despite making the taxi industry and regulators jump on hot coals for its unconventional practices, internationally the backing of Uber’s four-wheel innovation is remarkable. It was recently valued at $19.4 billion and raised $US1.2 billion from a consortium of private equity and venture capital funds. The brains and monetary brawn in the city clearly see a game-changing innovation to transport. One of an incredible scale – and one that is here to stay.

As for The Big Pitch, Rossi says: “Having seen Uber grow so quickly from a micro-business to a multi-billion dollar company, we hope that all the entrepreneurs taking part in The Big Pitch realise that with a stand out idea, a lot of hard work and determination, anything is possible. We look forward to seeing the big winning idea and imagine how that too could innovate and change our lives – just as Uber has – for the better.”