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Uber can be integral part of UAE’s smart city journey: SVP

David Plouffe lauds country’s smart city strategy

Uber can be integral part of UAE’s smart city journey: SVP
Plouffe: Almost every conversation I’ve had [in Dubai] has been centred on smart cities.

Ride-sharing service Uber is ideally placed to help Dubai and the wider UAE in its journey towards a smart society, a senior Uber executive told ITP.net.

David Plouffe, senior vice president, Policy and Strategy for Uber, said Dubai's innovation-first mind-set meshed perfectly with the business model of the six-year-old San Francisco-based technology company, which allows smartphone users to "hail" a vehicle through an app.

"We're talking to a lot of people - government officials and private sector - and almost every conversation I've had here has been centred on smart cities and what goes into that; and that is our core mission - to help build the cities of the future," said Plouffe.

Uber has been painted by regulators and transportation lobbies around the world as, at best, an industry rebel and, at worst, a flagrant rule breaker. But the company's message is that it works within the regulatory framework to provide its services, which, it insists, help drivers as much as passengers.

Shaden Abdellatif, an Uber spokesperson from the company's Middle East and Africa Communications department, said, "[The way Uber operates] is different here [in the UAE] than in other places and I think people sometimes mix that up. They see a story in another market and think that's how we operate here, but it really comes down to the licensing and regulation [framework] in each [territory]."

Abdellatif said that in the UAE Uber has chosen to partner with licensed limousine companies, which become account holders on the platform and are able to dole out more work to drivers than they would otherwise get.

"A driver would typically have been outside a hotel [each] day and that's the only way he could have made income," she said. "He now can make better use of his day and instead of two hours, he can spend 10 hours, if that's what he wants to do, using Uber technology."

Plouffe sees Expo 2020 as a key driver for Uber's growth. As Dubai continues with smart-city projects in preparation for the year-long event, he believes opportunities for ride-sharing services will mushroom.

"Forty per cent of our business in Dubai comes from [tourists] and when you look at the projections, not only for population growth, but for visitor growth between now and the Expo, it's astronomical," he said.

"So I think it's a good marriage of a city that says ‘Where do we want to be in 2020? Where do we want to be in 2025?' [and] Uber, [which] wants to partner with cities and governments and private-sector entities to help solve challenges. There are mobility challenges, economic challenges and challenges around congestion and emissions - that's what gets us up every morning, is to play a role in solving some of these problems."

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