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Uber SA introduces electric scooters

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Ride-hailing platform Uber South Africa has committed to becoming a zero-emissions company by 2040 by introducing its new product offering called Uber Package which will be operated by electric scooters.

Electric scooters, known as e-scooters, are powered by a rechargeable battery with a range of approximately 20-60 kilometers per charge.

The new service was announced by Uber Sub-Saharan Africa General Manager Kagiso Khaole during the company's event on Tuesday in Johannesburg, celebrating ten years of South African operations.

Previously called Uber Connect, Uber Package allows users to book same-day pickup and delivery of a package within a single geographical area. The new delivery scooters will not need to be plugged in to get a charge as they will use swappable, rechargeable batteries.

The electric vehicles for Uber Package will first be available in Cape Town in December 2023, and the rollout will move to Johannesburg by February 2024.

Khaole said the move to electric vehicles is part of the company's global target of becoming a zero-emission platform by 2040.

More Uber announcements

The ride-hailing platform also used the event to make other announcements.

The company announced Uber Store Pick-Ups, which will allow a delivery person to collect any prepaid items from any store.

Furthermore, Uber is expanding Uber Van to Cape Town, and its luxury rideshare offering Uber Black is expanding to Durban. It also announced the addition of Reserve Airport Pickup for its UberX, Uber Comfort and Uber XL rides throughout South Africa.

"Our mobility business in South Africa has grown over the past few years, evidenced by expansion to nearly 30 cities across the country, and providing independent earning opportunities for over 20,000 earners," Khaole said.

Uber Sub-Saharan Africa General Manager Kagiso Khaole.   (Source: Uber South Africa)
Uber Sub-Saharan Africa General Manager Kagiso Khaole.
(Source: Uber South Africa)

Uber Eats also launched Uber Live, which allows customers to receive their orders no matter where they are.

"We are excited about the launch of Uber Live as we are able to take the food shopping experience to the next level for attendees at large events such as festivals, concerts or sporting celebrations, eliminating endless queues to allow our users to enjoy the event to the fullest," said Uber Eats Sub-Saharan Africa General Manager Nakampe Molewa.

Uber challenges in SA

The company has made several announcements in its past ten years in the country.

In September 2023, it added an audio-recording safety feature that allows riders and drivers to record their trips in case of safety incidents.

In the same month, the company expanded into eight more cities across Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana.

However, even with many announcements, the company has been marred by protests from its drivers.

Just last month, drivers represented by a union called the E-Hailing Partners Council suspended their services.

That protest was due to the company's implementation of an in-app feature called Trip Radar.

"The Trip Radar feature is aimed at reducing the wait time for riders and drivers, helping them find a ride whenever they need one while offering drivers greater flexibility in choosing trip requests," an Uber spokesperson said in response to the protest.

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*Top image source: Uber South Africa.

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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