General

South Africa’s Urban Mobility Trends


There are over one billion two hundred million cars in the world, and in South Africa alone one in five people own a vehicle.

A major cause of air pollution, transportation causes 22% of all carbon emissions, but this amount may see a decline as 10% of millennial Uber riders have given up their cars or not purchased one at all.

As more people realise that a shift is needed, both environmentally and financially, ride hailing, often including ride sharing, is expected to grow from 4% to 25% of all miles driven globally, by 2030.

In South Africa, almost twenty thousand riders use Uber more than ten times a week, indicating this shift in consciousness and in car ownership.

Trends in Technology Influencing Transport in South Africa

Uber is a great example of how mobile technology has revolutionised the metre taxi business. All in the palm of your hand, you are able to order your ride, follow your journey, rate your driver, and pay for your trip. This is the power of the mobile phone and connectivity, and we see technological trends impacting the minibus operators too.

South Africa is working on establishing a new e-ticketing project, with the hopes of being nation-wide within five years. The mobile taxi system, owned and implemented by FairPay and TaxiChoice, “will enable commuters to load their FairPay cards via point of sale (POS) devices and kiosks at taxi ranks, though eventually these services will also be available in selected retail stores.”

This means that the new system will conveniently now accept card transactions, ensuring a smoother payment process. The e-ticketing system will also include a GPS-tracking device, which doubles up as a Wi-Fi hotspot to allow commuters the convenience of being connected as they travel.

Currently, newer technologies for payment and Internet connectivity are already being rolled out, as stated by Brett Herron, the mayoral committee member for transport and urban development in Cape Town. In the city, there is Wi-Fi on the BRT buses (MyCiTi) as well as an integrated ticketing system. In the future, we can expect to see similar digital taxi operating systems, like the e-ticketing service, to be rolled-out across all minibus taxi and bus services.

The Benefits for Micro-Entrepreneurs

The crux of strengthening the local transport systems lies in the need to better commuter wellbeing while elevating the local economy. Uber, Taxify, and other private taxi services, which use a shared model of ownership, will continue to grow if they combine new technology with a strong sense of upliftment in every area they operate in.

Revamping the transport systems through private ownership will result in many jobs being created, as witnessed with the recent taxi operators mentioned above, which will work towards ending poverty in South Africa.

While this is not a solution to eradicating poverty, it drastically enhances many people’s lives, a benefit for the poor that is hard for cities to ignore.

Sustainable Transport: a Green Solution to Urbanisation

Looking further than e-ticketing sales and Wi-Fi, the future of transport will be much more sustainable and unconventional. From electric and driverless cars to solar powered robot taxis, in the coming years we’ll see a change from how commuters get from point A to B, no doubt impacting the taxi industry.

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) have bought 200 Tesla electric vehicles, 50 of them already carried out for the limo fleet, with the UAE on track to launch 1,582 hybrid cars this year.

Similarly, solar powered robot taxis are expected transform the face of travel, as countries like our own confront the dual issue of congestion and climate change.

The World Economic Forum reports that in an ideal situation, “a city like Berlin could use robot taxis to carry up to 60% of its passengers”, while other cities could see a reduction of cars on its roads by 40% thanks to newer technologies.

Where Do We Go From Here?

While autonomous vehicles are set to hit our roads somewhere close to 2030, we need more immediate transportation solutions to improve commuter journeys.

Ultimately, the cities themselves will be the leaders of implementing sustainable transportation, but there is a remarkable opportunity for taxis to emerge as leaders of the green transport movement, as well to implement the latest tech to advance operations and comfort for commuters.

If private taxi companies invest in newer sustainable transport while partnering with strategically collaborating with investors and manufacturers, rather than waiting for cities to take charge, then we could see a shift led by private companies.

With commuters given access to green transport options, without breaking the bank compared to other taxi services, the future of transport is bright!