Uber working on self-driving cars to connect consumers and retailers

Uber is among a number of taxi apps which are being deployed in cities in the United States and worldwide. (Paul J Richards, AFP)

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Uber says it is working on self-driving cars to better connect consumers and retailers, the SA Council of Shopping Centres has heard.

The annual conference took place in Durban this week.

Uber’s lead for strategic partnerships and Uber for Business in sub-Saharan Africa, Shavaye Govender said according to a detailed study that they conducted, more than 250 000 people from 650 international cities took an Uber ride in SA over the past 12 months.

“We want to see how we can get these visitors to retail areas in SA in a seamless way once they get here, because people are also a bit afraid of safety when they visit SA,” Govender said in his presentation.

“We are not just thinking in terms of how we connect consumers in general, but how we connect them with the next level of modality. We are, for instance, working on self-driving cars. Imagine getting to your shopping centre with no driver involved.”

He said urban mobility has been a game changer and affects retail opportunities as well. Close to 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas and this percentage is increasing. This creates congestion, leading to why a service like Uber exists. In fact, over the past 8.5 years close to 10 billion Uber rides have already been taken in the world.

“There is still lots of room to maximise the use of our assets better and get the best return from an economic point of view,” said Govender.

One example he says is uberPOOL, described as an efficient lift club concept where users are synced up along the same route.

“uberPOOL in London is becoming the new Tinder (dating site) people say. Strangers are connecting with each other when they use uberPOOL,” joked Govender.

He said retailers are also starting to see how they can create seamless integration of transport for their customers. The Dubai Mall, for instance, has dedicated drop-off zones for Uber customers, depending where in the mall they want to be.

“We are toying with the idea of how to integrate Uber into consumers’ subscriptions to particular retailers. For instance, the customer of a particular retailer could be provided an Uber voucher to be taken to the mall and then back home again,” said Govender.

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