Ride-sharing startups like Uber and Lyft have been notorious for clashing with city leaders as they expand. Now, as many transportation startups are looking in the direction of autonomous technology, 15 of them have signed a joint mobility pledge, outlining for skeptical city leaders how they aim to create more livable, sustainable cities.
The 10 shared mobility principles attempt to “ensure that ongoing developments in technology, operational systems, ownership, and service business models lead to more livable, sustainable, and just cities.” Among the signees are almost all of the world’s major ride-sharing companies — BlaBlaCar, Didi, Lyft, and Uber — as well as shared bike startups Mobike and LimeBike. The 10 principles are:
- We plan our cities and their mobility together
- We prioritize people over vehicles
- We support the shared and efficient use of vehicles, lanes, curbs, and land.
- We engage with stakeholders
- We promote equity
- We lead the transition toward a zero-emission future and renewable energy
- We support fair user fees across all modes
- We aim for public benefits via open data
- We work toward integration and seamless connectivity
- We support that autonomous vehicles in dense urban areas should be operated only in shared fleets
The shared mobility pledge was the brainchild of Zipcar cofounder Robin Chase, who developed it alongside a handful of NGOs. The principles were first released in October, but the 15 companies announced today didn’t sign on until now. On a conference call with reporters, Chase said that getting the 15 companies onboard was critical, because they already play a critical role in the travel decisions people make today.
“Transportation is the key to whether you get a job or go to school or see your friends — transportation is really the gateway to opportunity,” Chase said.
This isn’t the first time shared transportation service providers have banded together to ensure their vision leads the discussion on urban mobility. In December, Uber, Grab, and Ola joined the International Association of Public Transport, an organization with around 1,400 members that aims to unite key stakeholders from across the transportation spectrum.
The principles don’t include specific metrics for transportation companies to hit in the coming years. But Chase says success will be evaluated based on whether the U.S. and other countries start to shift away from personal car ownership and rely more on shared transportation modes — which she and other participants say is the best way to ensure that cities become more livable for all in the future.
“There’s an enormous inefficiency that we’ve built into personal cars,” Uber’s head of transportation policy, Andrew Salzberg, said on the call. “We also think there’s huge benefits to teaming up with companies in the space to reduce the need for people to own and operate their own personal vehicles.”
It’s not difficult to foresee some of the principles clashing with each other. For example, the principle of “prioritizing people over vehicles” refers to putting people at the center of transportation planning. But people who operate vehicles for a living — bus drivers, taxi drivers — are likely going to feel that vehicles are being prioritized over their livelihood when fully autonomous technology becomes available.
Another principle that’s sure to ignite controversy is the support for fair user fees across all models, which would disrupt the way that many people get around today.
“Right now, we let a person drive their personal car during peak times in cities like New York or Paris, taking up a huge amount of space and making buses that are carrying 50 people much slower. That is not a fair user fee across all modes,” said Chase.
The release of these shared mobility principles comes as many social media giants — most notably Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube — are being criticized for not sufficiently anticipating and curtailing bad actors on their platforms. It’s clear that transportation companies are attempting to get ahead of whatever backlash their technology might provoke.