Australia’s love affair with the family car is getting more and more expensive and less and less sustainable: it’s time for a Dear John letter to the four-wheeled machine that gobbles up so much cash, time, pavement space while eroding the atmosphere. Cars cost big money to keep on the road: registration, repairs, fuel, insurance and so on add up to a whopping average of $364 a week (or $19,000 a year).
At the same time, metropolitan drivers know road congestion is getting worse and sitting in traffic jams has become a daily reality for many commuters. The average Sydneysider now spends an average of at least 50 hours a year stuck in traffic, wasting time and using fuel. Meanwhile, increasing car exhaust makes a substantial contribution to smog and climate change (light vehicles, such as cars, account for 11 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions).
Uber wants to help Australia start moving into a future of shared and electric transport with a range of possible fixes: covering both shared and electric options.
New technology will help people get places faster, help them share rides and transport, and help them choose sustainable ways to travel. Uber has also financially assisted Uber drivers and delivery partners to go greener, with $26 million in incentives to buy electric vehicles announced last year, and a partnership with bp to provide electric vehicle charging discounts to Uber drivers.
Uber is committed to eliminating exhaust emissions across the platform by 2040, says Dom Taylor, general manager Uber ANZ. “By offering more sustainable choices across our platform, we’re empowering our community of riders and eaters to take easy steps that contribute towards a greener future,” he adds. “Australia’s path to net-zero is going to take a concerted effort from all of us, and Uber is stepping up to play our part.”
Compared with other nations, Australia has been slow to adopt electric vehicles even though the nation has one of the world’s highest rates of car ownership with more than 15 million cars now on the roads.
Uber wants to help kick-start a greener travel trend in Australia with a range of consumer choices.
The platform’s Uber Green option allows passengers in most Australian big cities to choose an electric vehicle or hybrid ride at no extra cost. In the first three months of 2023, there were 1,250 electric vehicles (EVs) on the go on the Australian Uber platform, taking passengers on more than 567,000 trips.
Uber also offers Uber Pool, so passengers heading in a similar direction can share a ride for a reduced cost. These days about one in five of all Uber trips are Pool trips in the cities where it is available.
Making the switch from owning a full-time car to renting a nearby vehicle when it’s needed can help save money and cut down on emissions, so Uber has expanded a home-grown Australian start-up, Uber Carshare (formerly called Car Next Door) to make it an easy process. Consumers can rent a nearby car from a neighbour for a few days or a few hours for a fee.
The Uber app also features an electric bike option, with times and costs estimated for Lime e-bikes.
Public transport travel options – bus, train, ferry and light rail – are listed on the one-stop-shop Uber app as well, with information about the best and fastest routes, real-time schedules, ticket prices and walking directions to and from stations and bus stops.
Mixing and matching some or many of these travel options will get most passengers where they want to go quickly and affordably with reduced hassle and without the need for an expensive privately-owned car.
Uber wants to understand more about the costs and benefits of going car-free as a useful stage in the journey to an exhaust-free future. A trial to see how well the average Australian two-car family does without a second car will begin later this year (?). Fifty Australian families will give up a car (probably their second car) for four weeks, instead taking use the various Uber travel options with $1300 in transport and delivery credit. Transport usage will be documented, along with the costs of the travel and the physical fitness of the passengers.
It’s all part of the broadscale planning needed to shift the way Australian transport into a greener phase. “We believe the future of transport is shared and electric,” says Uber general manager Dom Taylor. “And we want to help Australians navigate this new world of travel options: it’s more affordable at this time of increasing costs and much better for the planet.”