Skift Take

Uber started as a rideshare app, but the vision is to be much more than that.

Uber is working on a lot of projects to push its business beyond its traditional focus. 

The company is continuing to experiment with other forms of travel booking, as Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi highlighted during the Skift Global Forum in September. 

Khosrowshahi in an earnings call last week shared details about some of these projects, including its approach to machine learning and adding adding more travel services. 

Implementing the Latest AI 

One technology that Uber has adopted uses computer vision — a type of AI that allows computers to recognize objects in images and videos — to “read” and transcribe onboarding documents from new drivers. 

  • “So that your on-boarding experience and the time to onboard could be reduced drastically; errors can be reduced as well. So essentially, machines can read these documents better than humans can,” Khosrowshahi said.

Uber is working on implementing GitHub Copilot as a way to increase productivity in software development. Developed by GitHub and OpenAI, the platform makes suggestions as developers type and can provide coding suggestions in response to natural language prompts. GitHub says the platform can increase productivity by 55%.

  • “Because of investments that we’ve made in our tooling, our average software developer is much more productive now than they were two years ago, and we think that GitHub Copilot will improve productivity and hopefully will also reduce mistakes on the platform, as well,” Khosrowshahi said.

Uber is working on implementing AI tools to help customer service agents. He said the tool evaluates a customer’s history and provides suggestions to the agent about how to handle certain issues based on the policy for a certain geography. 

  • “Humans have to go through all these kinds of policies. Now, machines do, they give humans a recommendation. And eventually, the machines are going to be talking with our customers on the front line as well,” Khosrowshahi said.

He also said because Uber has a range of services that is growing, the amount of data it is gathering will benefit the company as it looks to further implement AI in the future. 

  • “Because we’re the largest player in the world, we are gathering more data for more customers across a wider range of behaviors than anybody else. We think in a world where [machine learning] becomes more important, Uber becomes competitively stronger, so to speak, because of the set of data that we have that’s really unmatched and unrivaled, including customers who are engaging both in the mobility and the delivery marketplace,” Khosrowshahi said.

Travel Beyond Rideshare 

Khosrowshahi continues to say there’s potential for Uber to expand into other areas of travel. 

In 2022, nearly 700 million trips globally were taken by users who were outside of their primary cities, he said. Each quarter, about 20% of users take trips domestically. 

“So our users, they’re high-income earners, they tend to travel a lot and that becomes a good segment for us to target,” Khosrowshahi said.

In the UK, Uber is piloting booking services for buses, trains, flights, and more. Of the users in the UK who have booked a bus or train on Uber, 60% of them are already repeating those bookings. And 25% of users are repeating flight bookings through Uber. 

That repeat business in the UK pilot makes Uber optimistic about rolling out the service in other markets.  

Uber is continuing to add services meant to appeal to business travelers. Uber for Business says it works with more than 170,000 companies. Khosrowshahi said the company is looking at establishing business in other verticals, as well, like health and transit. 

“We’ve got multiple avenues for growth, and travel and business are just one amongst many.”

Ground Transportation Sector Stock Index Performance Year-to-Date

What am I looking at? The performance of rental cars sector stocks within the ST200. The index includes companies publicly traded across global markets including both rental car and mobility companies.

The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number. See more rental cars and transportation financial sector performance. 

Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.

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Tags: artificial intelligence, business travel, earnings, online travel newsletter, uber

Photo credit: Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi at the Skift Global Forum in New York City, September 2023. Skift

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