Let’s start with Voi Technology, the micromobility start-up that has provided 2 million e-scooter rides to users across 18 different cities in eight months since their initial launch. Not only have they recognized the acute need for better unit economics and overall vehicle design by introducing new models that are more durable and designed for future recycling, but they are also unveiling the upcoming Voi Cargo. A three-wheeled electric cargo bike specifically created for riders that need to carry bulky loads, such as groceries or children.
Meanwhile, Uber is in the talks with SoftBank-backed start-up Nuro to tackle the robo-delivery market as its own subsidiary Uber Eats is currently losing money. The idea is to use Nuro’s vehicles (narrower and shorter than a typical car) for first-mile deliveries, which according to a confidential document reviewed by The Information is thought to improve Uber Eats’ margins by as much as 20% in some markets, given that it reaches sufficient scales of deployment. Although Nuro would not handle deliveries from end to end (instead of moving orders from restaurants to a central pick-up hub for Uber Eats vehicles), it can help them to prove how they can be part of a business ecosystem. Meanwhile, Uber Eats could profit from not having to spend time fetching orders at each and every restaurant.
Even though these types of deliveries differ, I can’t help to draw some parallels and question which one is more preferable from sustainability and health perspectives. Should we become more reliant on ordering our food and groceries from home and have them delivered by a service that deploys new vehicles to make a profit? And if these services are not optimized to decrease combined distance travelled, it could lead to even more occupied roads than today. On the other hand, as electric cargo bikes could be a more sustainable and healthy option, as well as convenient to some degree compared to pedal cargo bikes, they might not be suitable for everyone or every occasion. I think the Uber/Nuro approach plays an important role in a society that is increasingly dependent on e-commerce, but one need does not exclude the other. We should promote both where they make the most sense from a societal perspective.
Written by Hampus Alfredsson, RISE Viktoria.