After flooding dozens of cities with tens of thousands of pay-per-minute electric two-wheelers, the bike and scooter companies have hit a snag: cities are increasingly passing new rules to regulate their use. As part of their effort to get into the good graces of regulators and lawmakers writing these rules, the scooter startups are rolling out new products and initiatives that emphasize charitable giving, outreach to low-income communities, and infrastructure improvements. It’s image rehabilitation 101.
Even though public bus ridership is declining in Las Vegas, Uber is offering a ride-sharing option that’s modeled on how people catch a bus. Rather than offering door-to-door service, Uber’s Express Pool will require passengers to walk “no more than a couple of blocks,” likely to a busy intersection, to wait for a car. The driver will make as few turns as possible and will pick up other riders along the way, resulting in fares generally lower than the company’s Pool service, Uber spokeswoman Stephanie Sedlak said Wednesday.
In a nondescript depot in suburban Arizona, the future of transportation is getting a tune-up. This is where Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, houses its growing fleet of self-driving cars: hundreds of Chrysler Pacifica minivans fitted with highly advanced hardware and software that enables them to safely ride on public roads without a human driver behind the wheel. For over a year, Waymo has been offering trips to the 400-plus members of its Early Rider program who use Waymo’s ride-hailing app to summon the minivans for free trips to school, the mall, the gym, or elsewhere within its suburban Phoenix service area. Soon, Waymo will make that service available to the general public and it will start charging money for it, too. At the outset, the company plans on offering fully autonomous rides with a Waymo employee in the car only as a chaperone. And when that happens, it will make history as the first fully driverless taxi service in the world.
A few years ago, Travis Holoway, who was working as a financial advisor in New York City, got into a conversation with some friends about payday loans. He couldn’t believe the terms were really as onerous as they said, so he decided to look into the matter himself. That’s when he learned that such lenders typically charge an interest rate of 400% or so, often landing customers in ever-deeper debt. Already fed up with his current focus—helping wealthy people invest their money—he decided he needed to do something about the problems faced by the 70% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck. His answer: build a peer-to-peer landing platform and app aimed at linking up low-income borrowers seeking $50 to $1,000 loans for everyday needs.
SoftBank has invested in everything from self-driving cars to ride hailing. Now, Softbank Group is leading a $300 million investment in peer-to-peer car-sharing platform Getaround. For SoftBank the investment represents a new angle on mobility. So far the company has invested in a whole slate of future-focused transportation companies, including DoorDash, Uber, and self-driving-focused startups such as General Motors’ Cruise division. But Getaround marks the first time the company has invested in a peer-to-peer sharing startup.
Thanks to the sharing economy, it’s possible that few of us will actually own anything in the future. Need a beach villa for your next Hawaiian vacation? Airbnb at someone else’s. Looking for an exotic rental car in Prague? Find a local on DriveShare who isn’t using there’s. Even outdoor gear is rentable through sites like Gearo. Now, if you need a boat, GetMyBoat is looking to, well, get you a boat wherever and whenever you need one.
In more than two dozen cities across the country, transit agencies have partnered with private-sector transportation providers, such as Lyft, Uber and Via, as well as local taxi companies and other mobility providers. These relationships have evolved as agencies seek to grow ridership, burnish their brand and remain relevant amid the pervasive growth of non-traditional, app-based transportation services.
If you thought flying private was only for the 1%, a startup called Blackbird is trying to change that. CEO Rudd Davis said that frustration with increasingly horrible traffic in California was part of what led him to build Blackbird, an app that lets anyone hop a privately-owned plane for short distances—between about 50 and 400 miles. Blackbird’s app includes three options: charter, reserve seats on pre-schedule flights, and an option called Hitch that the company likens to the “carpool of the skies.”
After Dara Khosrowshahi took over as Uber’s chief executive last August, he considered shutting the company’s money-losing autonomous vehicle division. A visit to Pittsburgh this spring changed that. They left the meeting energized, convinced that Uber needed to forge ahead with self-driving cars, the people said. But days after the summit, one of Uber’s autonomous cars struck and killed a woman who was pushing a bicycle across a street in Tempe, Ariz. The accident threw Uber’s autonomous vehicle efforts into flux, immediately forcing the suspension of its self-driving car tests in cities including Tempe, Pittsburgh and Toronto. Months later, Uber’s executives are divided over what to do with the autonomous business, according to the people familiar with the company. While one camp is pushing Mr. Khosrowshahi to seek partnerships or even a potential sale of the unit, known as the Advanced Technologies Group, a rival contingent is arguing that developing self-driving technology is crucial to Uber’s future, the people said.
Over the last year, dockless bikesharing has galloped into cities across the United States, swiftly doubling the number of shared bikes available on city streets. The GPS- and app-based technology these services use allows bikes to float around cities, into neighborhoods where bikeshare had never gone before, or where docked systems have failed to catch on. But the venture capital-backed bike invasions have also stoked anxiety over vandalism, bike clutter, and city regulations. Now a new pilot proposal in Minneapolis is attempting a hybrid between docked and dockless systems. The nonprofit Nice Ride MN wants to add 1,500 dockless bikes to its existing docked network. The key feature is a low-tech but intuitive fix for keeping free-range bikes under control: put down some damn parking spots.