“Shared mobility principles“ seen to create monopoly for Uber, Lyft, ZipCar

Ride hailing giant Uber has gained notoriety for a wide variety of sins but, according to Marc Scribner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, these may pale in comparison to what may unfold with the document called Shared Mobility Principles for Sustainable Cities.

In a blog, Scribner dismisses the first nine out of 10 principles as fact-free platitudes about 'zero emissions' etc, but raises a red flag over the 10th principle: We support that autonomous vehicles (AVS) in dense urban areas should be operated only in shared fleets.  

''Due to the transformational potential of autonomous vehicle technology, it is critical that all AVs are part of shared fleets, well-regulated, and zero emission. Shared fleets can provide more affordable access to all, maximise public safety and emissions benefits, ensure that maintenance and software upgrades are managed by professionals, and actualise the promise of reductions in vehicles, parking, and congestion, in line with broader policy trends to reduce the use of personal cars in dense urban areas.''

He writes that Uber, Lyft, ZipCar intend to outlaw personally-owned self-driving cars in central cities to ensure that the market for automated road vehicles is controlled by corporate fleet owners. Not surprisingly Uber, Lyft, and ZipCar envisage their future as corporate fleet owners.

Also, writing in Popular Science, Rob Verger raises the same concerns and quotes Joseph Okpaku, vice president for government relations at Lyft, ''We definitely do envision a future where the vast majority of autonomous vehicle rides will be done as part of a shared network,'' Okpaku said during a conference call on Wednesday.

''We think that's the best way to realize all the benefits that an autonomous future can bring.''

He cited experts as saying the principle, is self-serving for companies who already look to dominate auto transit in major cities.

It's a ''very convenient'' idea for the companies who are promoting it, said Don MacKenzie, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington.

''It is basically [tying] the success of these companies to the adoption of autonomous vehicles,'' he said. In other words, putting this principle in action means that ''if people want the benefits of AVs, they can only get that by using shared fleets.