In Uber’s vision of the future, self-driving cars will whisk us everywhere, eliminating the need for its millions of human drivers.
But as the ride-hailing giant prepares to sell as much as $10 billion in stock to the public this week to help build those vehicles, a low-tech approach to the self-driving future is emerging in India: motorbikes that customers rent and drive themselves
Several startups — backed by big Silicon Valley venture firms and Uber’s Indian competitor, Ola — are betting that shared “two-wheelers” are better suited to wallets and transportation needs than the cars that are the heart of the ride-hailing industry
The traditional model of Uber and Ola is reaching its limits, said Vivekananda Hallekere, a co-founder and the chief executive of Bounce, which fields more than 6,000 motorbikes that people can pick up and drop off anywhere in the southern Indian city of Bangalore. The car rides are too expensive for most Indians, the drivers complain about long hours and poor compensation, and the ride-hailing platforms are struggling to make a profit, he said
“You can’t make it affordable with a driver,” Hallekere said. “And if users know how to use a scooter, why do you need a driver?”
By focusing on the large swath of people who cannot afford ride-hailing services, these startups are opening up a new front in the global battle to provide shared transportation services.
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