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Uber's Smart Routes and Recent Jeep Hack Hires: Two Milestones On A Journey To Becoming A Tech Giant Superpower

Photo of Karol Severin
by Karol Severin

Uber confirmed they are testing a new addition to their Uber Pool proposition. Smart Routes allow consumers to save even more money if they are willing to be picked up on one of Uber’s ‘hot routes’. This allows for further discount to consumers and makes drivers’ job more efficient and effective. But Smart Routes will be a lot more impactful than just that. Furthermore, last week’s hire of the Jeep-hacking duo Miller & Valasek further hints at Uber’s future strategy:

Uber will become public transport of the future, once it goes driverless

Smart Routes is the missing puzzle piece in the Uber Pool strategy to create a truly mainstream proposition that offers the best of both worlds. Customers can enjoy the comfort, and on demand features of taxi riding at costs close to public transport. For now Uber’s core clientele consists of cab users and car users. The Smart Routes step is one towards capturing the largely populous and steadily predictable market they are currently missing: the public transport users.

The second driverless cars get ‘fully out there’ it will be a logical move for Uber to get rid of all (or most) drivers. The recent Jeep-hackers hire and partnership with University of Arizona to further develop autonomous car technology suggest that Uber is pursuing this strategy already. Going driverless will likely push operating costs down to a point where Uber’s pricing becomes fully competitive to public transport prices. Secondly, going driverless will solve most of the safety issues Uber has been criticised about. No more ‘the driver looks/behaves a bit dodgy, is it safe to get in?’. With the increasing use of biometrics, this can go as far as disallowing people with criminal records to board/book a shared ride.

Uber will have the best in-city delivery network on Earth

If people are willing to share cab rides with humans, they are bound to be ok sharing rides with products too. Indeed delivery is another channel for Uber to become a life-companion brand instead of just a taxi service. Ushering consumers to board cars on routes suitable for Uber will make its delivery network much more efficient. Additionally to the ‘public transport’ routes, which will be largely fixed, the second type of routes can be flexible depending on where most products need to be delivered that day. Cars can start their shift from a warehouse where they pick up products to be delivered that day. With the non-fixed routes, there is an element of positive surprise to the consumer (‘Yeay, there is smart route next to my house today, so I don’t have to take the rush hour Tube, what a great day!’). Sharing a ride with delivery products lowers cost to the rider as well as to the person who pays for delivery. Another positive surprise for product buyers: At e-check out they could see a message like ‘max. delivery charge $10 to be paid upon delivery’ but when the Uber car turns up with their product it’ll say: ‘I picked up 10 people on the way to you, so the delivery is actually free for you today’. Speaking of great delivery networks, Uber could tease Amazon by putting a Smart Route around Amazon pick up boxes/lockers as they emerge around the world.

How Uber may affect house prices in the future

If Smart Routes are a success, there is a good chance they will become a factor in pricing of houses, just like nearby metro or bus stations do today. Especially in non-central locations where product warehouses are often located, and where Uber cars are likely to go through every day to pick up products.

How Uber’s Smart Routes could save lives in the future

Uber could liaise with emergency services to optimize routes based on clearing the way for the ‘busiest emergency service routes’ (e.g. around major hospitals). to speed up the emergency response. Secondly, Uber could have a special fleet of vehicles, which besides transporting products or people can store donor blood available on-demand around the city. In the future you could even donate blood on your way to work in return for a free ride. Uber will later deliver it to a location that’s in immediate need of it. This scenario offers a glimpse to the future of Uber staffing.

Even driverless Uber can use its large pool of drivers to its advantage

Going driverless will make the need for drivers redundant, no doubt. But the driverless car will become a place of service and interactive consumption. Uber is well positioned to dominate this space. There is an array of services Uber could offer that will require having a human on board to make the experience better (e.g. to donate blood, offer a massage on your way to work, or mixing you a cocktail on your way from it). A sizeable pool of drivers will seek requalification in the driverless world. Uber can manage and offer re-qualifications and utilize the human capital it has got on board already. Keeping employees as a part of the ecosystem will allow Uber to launch new services quickly, without having to slow down due to the hiring process for each new service around the world.

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