Technology Key to Staying Ahead of the CurveFri, 11/22/2019 - 13:42
Q: How can Uber maintain its competitive edge in a market with high acceptance for ride-hailing platforms but also an increasing number of competitors?
A: We are all about competition so it is hardly anything new for us, considering there are over 40 companies registered as ride-hailing platforms across the country. Competition is what forces us to offer the best value to our clients, as well as our partner drivers. We already have over 250,000 partners in Mexico and 8 million users in 44 cities across 21 states, which means we must constantly engage in new practices that can improve our position in the market.
Security is one of our utmost priorities in our quest for competitiveness. We know the country is going through one of its toughest times when it comes to security issues, so we have formed alliances with third parties, such as security experts and police forces, to strengthen our services. We are just about to launch a panic button on our platform that will share the user’s location directly with the authorities, which will complement other telematics processes we follow to protect drivers and users before, during and after a trip.
One of our corporate values is that we are customer-obsessed, which means we focus on maximizing the user experience through our vision of providing accessible mobility in a simple and stress-free way, while also solving employment needs in the markets in which we participate. This close contact with our users and the attention we pay to their feedback, together with the quality in our service and our years of experience on the road, have won us the trust of our client base. We also develop specific applications to, for example, identify demand patterns based on area or time of day, add a feature to tip drivers for exemplary service or build loyalty programs.
Q: How are you taking advantage of data processing and machine-learning technologies to boost your service offering?
A: We have a new machine-learning model that uses data from the over 10 billion trips we have completed throughout the world to identify 40 scenarios that could lead to a risky ride-hailing situation. This refers to a scenario in which our users could be endangered but also one in which our terms and conditions are not being followed. We are now blocking more trips than ever before but we do this to keep security as a priority in our service.
We have a new machine-learning model that uses data from the over 10 billion trips we have completed throughout the world to identify 40 scenarios that could lead to a risky ride-hailing situation.
We have also invested in a new verification algorithm for new users that only choose the cash-payment method. This has been a concern for many of our partner drivers but scanning the Facebook profiles of new users has allowed us to weed out fake applications. Regarding trips, we have developed several telematic applications to gather information from our drivers, which gives us intel on user satisfaction but also the driving habits of our partners. We keep close tabs on our partners’ performance so we can offer punctual advice or in more extreme cases, deactivate their account. Only in 2018, we deactivated 20,000 partner accounts either due to security concerns or because of driving practices that failed to live up to the standards we demand to maintain a quality service.
Most of these applications are not visible to the end user, so our partners have urged us to make them more evident, among them the filters that potential partners go through before being admitted by Uber. Before making somebody a partner driver, we first run their names through over 500 public registry databases to find any past red flags. After that, candidates undergo a face-to-face psychometric exam that has been refined after years of experience, based on the qualities we seek in our partners. During the exam we also use Microsoft Cognitive Services technology to ensure the person being tested matches the personal documents previously presented.
Q: What role does Uber want to play in the development of a sustainable mobility model in Mexico, considering the information the company can offer on commute routes and times?
A: Uber was born out of the necessity for an alternative to public transportation and private-vehicle use but we never thought we would become part of the solution of a much wider mobility problem. However, after becoming a key player in over 600 cities in 80 countries, we have become aware of the problems that cities face in terms of mobility and how we can apply our technology to solve these and work toward sustainable urban planning.
Uber has become a key element in our users’ lives and thanks to that, we have contributed to improving the living conditions of the cities where we are present. We have noticed a significant decrease in incidents related to drunk driving because now, users know they can ask for an Uber at any time of day or night instead of having to use their car, which in many cases was the only option. Similarly, we have contributed to transporting more people in fewer cars, which is part of our corporate vision. Finally, the data we have generated after 10 billion trips has also led us to take a more active role in the planning and development of cities.
Mobility is a complicated challenge that demands collaboration from the public and private sectors and opening our data on general traffic flows to the public through tools such as Uber Movement can help cities ensure any investment made has the biggest return.
Q: What would you say to OEMs or financing companies that may not see Uber as a profitable business partner?
A: We must understand how Uber has evolved and the solutions we have created to support our partner drivers. We can talk about inclusive economic development because over 50 percent of our current partner drivers were previously unemployed and over 70 percent were part of the informal economy. This means that they were people that had no access to credit options other than the schemes we created so they could gradually pay off a loan from their earnings as a private driver.
As partners grow their business as private drivers, they can start building their credit history and eventually move to other financing alternatives. In the meantime, however, OEMs and financing partners must be open to change their traditional schemes beyond common requests for large down payments or previous ownership of a credit card. Similarly, the insurance market must adapt to a new reality and not try to apply the same policies to those of private vehicle users. We have created specific programs for our partner drivers and we have built alliances with companies such as AXA so drivers do not have to look for an insurance product by themselves.
Q: After five years in Mexico, what is next for Uber and what role will the country play in the company’s strategy?
A: Over the past five years, we have invested over US$500 million and yet we still see this as the beginning of our participation in the development of inclusive mobility and economic development. We are committed more than ever to Mexico and it is one of the most important countries for the company. Being in Mexico has helped us understand we cannot just export technology from one country to another and over the coming years we will introduce even more developments to improve the user experience with our platform.
Cars are to Uber what books are to Amazon. This has been the vision outlined by our global CEO Dara Khosrwoshahi, which means we must evolve from a platform to a marketplace where users can find services to transport themselves or goods, not even by car if necessary. We are already analyzing new services with bikes, scooters, cargo transport and even flying cars to make our offering as efficient as possible, either through our own developments or through alliances with third parties.
Uber Technologies is an American company based in San Francisco that provides transportation and mobility services in over 80 countries. In Mexico, the company has operations in 44 cities