Uber To Talk About Solving Cities’ Ultimate Design Challenge At PSFK 2016
Uber's Ethan Eismann to talk at our NYC conference on designing transportation for tomorrow's cities
When Uber arrived on the scene in 2010, they had to reframe the conventional wisdom that told people not to get into a stranger’s car. Six years later, the startup is now valued at over $62 billion. At PSFK 2016, we are excited to invite Ethan Eismann, Head of Product and Marketing Design for the Growth Team at Uber, to speak at our conference on May 13. In this role, he is responsible for both telling stories that move people to become a driver or rider as well as building the experiences and tools needed to facilitate the expanding technology company.
We caught up with Eismann ahead of his talk to get his take on the future of cities and transportation.
Uber is growing at a rapid pace. With both global and US expansion, what are some of the challenges you consider when entering into a new city?
Uber is the ultimate design challenge because we’re building experiences that move cities and serve the citizens who live in them. We’re not just pushing pixels, we’re moving people. We’re focused on hyper complex challenges that involve people interacting directly with each other in a very close microenvironment—the car—as well as the macro context of all those interactions multiplied across entire urban environments—from streets and sidewalks to entire transportation systems.
To solve design problems, our design team embeds in cities so we can personally experience the competition, viscerally feel the transit pain points, and brainstorm face-to-face with our city teams. The result is a structured analysis that drives recommendations for product and service improvements. It’s an incredibly complex design challenge that is amazing to work on every day.
What is your vision for the future of transportation?
Simply put: more people in fewer cars. After traveling across the globe with an eye focused on solving problems with transportation, it’s clear that we have too many vehicles out there, on roads all around the world. This doesn’t really hit you until you experience first-hand the smog in Delhi or Beijing. Or when you are stuck in Manila’s traffic. We have too many cars on the road. And it isn’t simply a congestion problem, it’s a climate problem. And, as we work toward that ultimate goal of more people in fewer cars, an important step is making all the cars on the road as efficient as possible.
Private car ownership for many people is not great, especially for those in large cities. When you own a car you are basically paying to park it. You are paying for the garage or street space you rent, you are paying this with tickets and meters, and during that 5 percent of the time when you’re driving, you’re paying for gas and maintenance. Cars are an expense that puts stress on both the driver and her bank account.
Now, this point goes for normal car owners who leave their car unused 95 percent of the time. However, if you’re using your car to make money on your schedule by driving on a platform like Uber—then it’s a different story. And that’s because, for those folks, the car isn’t sitting unused all day, it’s being put into service to help multiple people get from A to B. With uberPOOL, for example, those efficiencies of multiple people sharing a ride in a single vehicle are really adding up. As this trend continues, we see that ultimately— most people don’t need to own their own car to get where they need to be. And that’s because platforms like Uber can help them get around at the tap of a button, without all the attendant stress of driving and parking themselves.
Services like uberPOOL make sense for people in densely populated cities. How does this translate for suburbanites?
Obviously in order for uberPOOL to work there needs to be enough people requesting rides at the same time headed in the same direction that can be matched together. You are absolutely correct that this makes total sense in cities. In suburban areas this is absolutely still a nut we have to crack. At the end of the day we’re focused on creating smart transportation solutions for everyone, everywhere—regardless of where they live.
What can we expect from your talk at the conference?
I’ll provide a bird’s eye view into how Uber designs for cities, and citizens, across the world. For designers in the audience, I hope this talk will provide a template for designing at a global scale. For non-designers, I’ll shine a light on how Uber has been able to successfully adapt itself to serve millions of people in over 400 cities worldwide.
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