While ridesharing services are best known for sending shockwaves through the taxicab industry, causing ridership to crater in cities like San Francisco, the endgame of companies like Uber and Lyft is even bigger.
Here are three ways ridesharing is changing the way people and goods get from point A to point B:
The image of hailing a sleek Uber to your doorstep might seem incongruous with crowded, less convenient public transit – but ridesharing and mass transit are more of a natural fit than you might think. According to a survey of Lyft riders in Boston, 25% of riders said they use the service to get to or from public transit. Transit authorities are warming to the idea of partnerships with companies like Lyft or Uber as a way to solve the ‘first-last mile problem’ – getting customers to and from their closest mass transit station.
In some cases, ridesharing is replacing the need for mass transit systems entirely – an approach suited to low-density areas without widespread public transit options in place such as Altamonte, Florida. In Altamonte, the city’s leadership partnered with Uber to offer rides within the city, subsidized by 20%.
Not only does this model make it easier to get around the town, it makes it easier for residents to get to and from the city’s commuter rail station (connecting the city to the greater Orlando area). Other suburbs have since followed suit: more than 100,000 residents of the greater Orlando area are now hailing rides as part of an Uber-public transit partnership.
Self driving cars
If you’re a futurist, a tech geek or simply an introvert who doesn’t love awkward conversations with cab drivers, you’re in luck: Uber launched a self-driving car pilot program in Pittsburgh this summer. Lyft, working in partnership with General Motors, has also stated that it plans to put self-driving cars on roads within a year. If ridesharing companies replace their drivers with self-driving cars, the implications will be huge: Uber alone has over 1 million drivers.
Uber’s quest to conquer roads around the world isn’t limited to ferrying passengers around, either. The company is also working on a fleet of self-driving trucks after acquiring Otto, a startup specifically focused on self-driving trucking.
Long-haul trucks, which spend most of their time on freeways in sparsely populated areas, are thought to be easier to make fully self-driving than cars operating in densely-packed city areas. According to Otto co-founder Lior Ron, “It’s still a very hard problem, but all the building blocks are there, and it’s much simpler than city driving”. With approximately 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the United States, the widespread adoption of self-driving trucks would be a truly disruptive force in the industry.