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Uber Air could see SA shoppers flying to malls via skyports, says exec

Oct 19 2018 12:14
Carin Smith, Durban

Ridesharing company Uber says it is working on "a whole generation of transport modalities" – one of which is Uber Air, an urban aviation ride sharing product that could see shoppers being picked up or dropped off at skyports. 

And it plans to bring Uber Air to South Africa, although the country will not be part of the inaugural proposed rollout.  The concept is set to go live in Los Angeles and Dubai in the next few years.

According to Uber, Uber Air is a "urban aviation ridesharing product" in development.

"A network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically … will enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities," states Uber on its website.

It hopes the concept will go live in 2023. 

Shavaye Govender, Uber’s lead for strategic partnerships and Uber for Business in sub-Sahara Africa, said on Thursday that for the retail sector, Uber Air would mean shoppers could jump into one of these devices and be dropped off or picked up at skyports situated on the rooftops of shopping centres.

"We do have plans to also bring Uber Air not just to SA, but to the African continent as a whole," said Govender, who was a guest speaker at the annual congress of the SA Council of Shopping Centres taking place in Durban this week.

"You might be skeptical and say it will not happen here in SA, but would you have believed me if I told you five years ago that South Africans would jump into a car with a driver they did not know and not have to tell him where to go because you already entered it into an app?"

He said it was all about a mindset change."Imagine the traffic you will miss if you just jumped into an Uber Air. And it will be completely based on renewable energy," he explained.

"We feel this can be part of the retail travel experience. It is about how to leverage the assets we have to connect people and make their lives better, while making the world better by reducing carbon emissions, and by creating more accessibility."

Eliminating the personal vehicle 

The company says its competition lies not in other ride sharing apps, but in making its services cheaper for consumers than owning vehicles.

"We are looking at making the Uber way of travelling cheaper than owning your own vehicle and integrating the options of using an Uber car, bicycle or vertical vehicle," he said.

"A whole different generation of transport modalities are coming into play and our true competition is really to eliminate your personal vehicle," he added.

  • Fin24 is a guest of the SACSC at its congress.

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