The ride-sharing app Uber has logged the fastest ascent in Silicon Valley history, growing from a startup eight years ago to a company operating across 450 cities in 73 countries and serving 40 million customers each month.
But the company’s Boston-based regional manager, Meghan Verena Joyce, said the company’s ultimate objective is much larger - to merge traditional transportation infrastructure with new technology to create a new model of moving from one place to another.
“I often wonder whether my daughter will ever have a driver’s license,” Joyce mused as she spoke to 300 people at the AIM Executive Forum in Waltham this morning.
The new transportation model, Joyce said, will make efficient use of private automobiles and public transit to reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and land-intensive parking. It will create a system in which everyone – including people in low-income urban areas often left out of the transit grid – will have access to reliable and affordable transportation.
“We believe there is a better way,” said Joyce, a Harvard MBA who served as an associate at Bain Capital and as a senior policy advisor at the US Treasury before joining Uber in 2013.
The challenge is not the one billion automobiles that exist worldwide, according to Joyce, but the solitary manner in which we use them. A show of hands from the audience indicated that the vast majority of people had driven to the Executive Forum with only one person in the vehicle.
Joyce said that Uber has already taken steps to integrate technology with existing transportation infrastructure to streamline the system. Many Uber customers in Boston combine ride-sharing with the MBTA, while others use a modified car-pooling initiative called UberPOOL to share rides with neighbors who travel to the same locations at similar times.
Almost one-third of Uber trips in Great Boston come from UberPOOL, according to Joyce. In San Francisco, where UberPOOL has existed for a longer time, the program has reduced car traffic in that city and saved an estimated 6.2 million gallons of gasoline while cutting carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 55,000 metric tons.
Joyce said Uber’s vision also includes providing transportation options for people in low-income urban areas. People in Dorchester and Mattappan, who she said formerly waited an average of 25 minutes for taxi pickups, now enjoy 96 percent reliability and pickups within 3-5 minutes with ride sharing.
“Our vision is to create a transportation ecosystem that is better for everyone,” she said.