Advocating for policies that work for both public and private mobility players is what Zuzana Púčiková does best. As the head of EU public policy at Uber, she talks about her fortuitous move into the sector, how Uber has evolved beyond ride-hailing and the role of policy in shaping the future of MaaS.
Zuzana Púčiková – Head of EU Public Policy, Uber
What motivated you to move into the mobility sector?
Until a year ago, I never thought I’d end up in the wonderful world of mobility. I’d previously worked for European institutions in Brussels as well as in-house with Amazon, where I spent seven years leading various policy projects.
Uber came to me when I was nine months pregnant but the fact I was about to start a long maternity leave didn’t deter them from hiring me. It felt empowering and encouraging as a woman that you’re not discriminated on the basis of parental needs. This has been my love story with Uber from day one.
What does your role as head of EU public policy at Uber entail?
My role is to represent Uber with European policymakers and opinion leaders, and to help drive customer-centric policies. On-demand passenger mobility is our core business which is why we’re actively engaging with partners like Polis, and are members of UITP, Cycling Industries Europe and MaaS Alliance. I’m on the board of the latter and chair the Data Management Task Force, where I advocate for the MaaS industry as a whole, finding compromises that work for all public and private members.
How is Uber helping to shape policy to encourage people away from their cars?
We play our part in two ways. One is through providing more options to our customers. We started with ride-hailing but then increasingly moved into new mobility with Jump electric bikes and also into MaaS through the Uber application by incorporating public transit. You can either view transit journey planning or, in a couple of cities that wished to go further, you can also buy tickets for all legs of the journey, whether it be transit, Uber or Jump.
The second way is teaming up with other, public and private, players to create seamless MaaS solutions for customers. For example, French operator SNCF will be integrating Uber into their platform. Recently, we partnered with French scooter operator, Cityscoot, which will see its e-moped sharing service integrated into the Uber app. Uber, Jump and Cityscoot complement each other perfectly, helping people to move around without the need to own their own car.
To what extent can MaaS support rural areas?
It requires closer public-private cooperation and public financing. The key challenge in rural areas is the lack of scale, insufficient commercially-viable use cases and little scope for efficiencies. However, MaaS holds great potential simply by having all available mobility solutions in one app. I personally feel it’s more essential for rural areas than cities, but scalability needs to be solved.
Uber ran rural pilots in the French city of Nice and very recently also in Germany, close to Munich and Berlin, providing first and last mile solutions. The feedback we received from the Nice trial, where we complemented reduced public transport in certain areas and at night-time, showed people were very happy. We found that 60% of those surveyed reduced private car usage as their full journey was covered, for example, between their home and work. They didn’t need to take their car or worry about parking.
From a public policy perspective, there are several ways to enable the uptake of MaaS. Public transit is at the heart of such solutions so alongside adequate funding is the need for policies that allow it to thrive. That’s one thing. Secondly, it is important to create policies that encourage the uptake of complementary modes within MaaS, particularly active travel like walking and cycling. Funding in infrastructure and road safety would help to encourage people to take a bike instead of a car.
How can mobility providers and public policy help reduce car use and congestion?
We must continue to disrupt ourselves and the industry by offering innovative solutions. In cities like Sacramento, our data showed that at peak congestion times, Jump rides overtook Uber car rides. That’s a win/win because people reached their destination faster and drivers weren’t stuck in traffic jams. As mentioned, we also integrated public transit and journey planning into our application. In Europe, customers can check transit prices and travel times in the Uber app in Paris, London and Lisbon; public transit will often be quicker and cheaper than taking an Uber ride.
On the public policy side, policymakers need to think about regulatory carrots and sticks: carrots should encourage a mental (and actual) shift towards active and more ecological, complementary modes of moving around; sticks should discourage private car use. The latter could include road charges or low emission zones for all types of vehicles, including the private car, which we strongly support.
We ran some calculations in several European cities including Paris, London and Brussels. They showed that, depending on the city, between 30% and 40% of Uber car rides ended or started within 200 metres of a public transit station. This makes a strong case for the fact the two complement each other, with ride-hailing covering the first and last mile. We also had an interesting partnership with FlixBus in France and Germany where customers could seamlessly use Uber rides to reach their FlixBus stop.
How do you create policies that support data sharing?
Data sharing is a great thing provided you safeguard user privacy and protect commercial sensitivities. Our recommendation, which we also do, is to share only aggregate and anonymised data to remove privacy risks. We have a public database called Uber Movement where anyone can use our data for free. It’s typically used by traffic management or urban planners in cities and by academics. The database shows aggregate movement flows based on Uber car trips to and from different parts of the city, including average speed. We recently also added heat maps for Jump bikes.
This means cities can compare Uber’s data with public data sets. For example, if our data shows the 10 roads most used by Jump users, and urban planners’ data shows that there’s no bike infrastructure on five of them, that is an ideal way to drive smart investment decisions. Another example is when cities match our average speed data with their data on traffic incidents and deaths, resulting in reduced speed limits on certain roads. Uber is part of city ecosystems, so it is in our own interest that cities are well planned and managed. That’s why we voluntarily share data with cities which also helps them focus their limited resources on where they’re most needed.
What are some of the key public policy issues you’re working on right now?
We’re supporting the MaaS Alliance, Cycling Industries Europe and others to develop their position on data sharing. We’ve seen a trend where some European cities are adopting the US data-sharing standard, Mobility Data Specification (MDS). However, we believe it doesn’t fit our European values and legal framework, particularly with GDPR. It’s an ongoing discussion. Europe needs one standard but it should reflect our values and laws.
Another key area of policy that’s vitally important is increased safety. One of our first actions under the new leadership was making safety the company’s top priority. I also spend a lot of time advocating for policies enabling sustainable mobility. We are encouraged to see European political leaders urging support for green recovery post-COVID. It is crucial that we rebuild our society and economy for the better, making them more sustainable but also resilient, so that parts of the mobility system can easily step in one for another when needed. MaaS is a clear enabler here.
While sectors most affected by the pandemic will need government support, we must ensure that subsidies are directed to low-carbon instead of polluting activities. We also want to see smart subsidies to enable MaaS and new mobility in rural areas and cities where it’s not commercially viable. But it must work for cities too.
We suggest linking subsidies to the achievement of city goals, where public-private partnerships are results-orientated with each player being accountable. For instance, if a city wants to improve mobility in a specific area, the subsidy or grant could be linked to the number or percentage of trips taken with the bike-sharing provider that originate or end in that part of the city.
Alternatively, authorities might want to improve mobility for a specific demographic such as wheelchair users – a shared mobility operator could receive a subsidy to support this. If someone uses several services, you could demonstrate that it’s led to an increase in usage by this demographic.
With so many players involved in creating a complete end-to-end solution, how does this impact the success of MaaS?
The very nature of MaaS is as a cross-community initiative. That’s the beauty of it and where its success lies. Therefore, it’s important that players work together to complement their mutual services, whether they operate in the mobility sector, insurance or elsewhere. An example is Jump insurance which helps to increase confidence with users. They know they’re covered whilst using the bike if they have an accident.
It’s about enabling trust in MaaS and improving user acceptance. For instance, we introduced bike lane alerts which warn passengers that Uber is about to drop them off close to a bike lane, so take care when opening the door. We use data from map providers. That’s the reciprocal advantage of data sharing; their data helps us do the right thing and increases safety.
How do we shape regulation to keep up with the pace of change in mobility?
Firstly, policies need to be results-oriented. The way I suggested cities fund subsidies could equally apply to legislation. For instance, they could set a regulatory outcome for safety and then allow the industry to achieve that through their own innovative means.
Secondly, it should be tech-neutral to avoid imposing a concrete technological solution on the industry, instead letting them find what works best for their customers. This approach enables innovation.
We should also consider that new regulation isn’t always necessary. There could be other ways to protect competition and meet public policy objectives such as self-regulation and enforcing applicable regulations that exist already, like GDPR. MaaS is still a nascent sector, so being too restrictive could harm it, which is why the MaaS Alliance’s work is so important. It brings together public and private players, providing a great platform for mutual ongoing discussion on issues that matter.
What can we learn from the current COVID situation when considering the future of MaaS?
As we start to recover from the current situation, we need to ensure that policymakers don’t forget the Green Deal, but they effectively use COVID as an opportunity to push for new policies, supporting businesses and opportunities which are ‘green by design’, and make MaaS more attractive than owning a car. This already seems to be the case which is encouraging. COVID could be a huge opportunity because, hopefully, people will start to think differently from a personal and business perspective.
As enablers in transporting people and things, we looked to provide support to global communities during the pandemic, leveraging our platform business to tackle the challenges they faced. We pledged to offer 10 million free rides and food deliveries to those in most need like healthcare workers or the elderly. We provided health guidance and financial support, and created new earning opportunities for drivers, couriers, restaurants and truck drivers using Uber Freight. We feel strongly that everyone must step up and play a role in helping out in these difficult times. This whole situation brings into sharp focus the importance of collaboration and partnership – both of which are essential to the success of MaaS.
How important is it to encourage women into transport and mobility?
Very important. Multiple studies have shown that when women are involved in decision-making, the decisions are more effective, democratic and work much better for everyone – plus there’s a disproportionate impact of policies on women. For instance, a World Bank study proved the link between women’s participation in ride-hailing and the regulatory burden to become a driver.
In the UK where the regulatory burden is low, a large percentage of drivers are female but where regulation is unnecessarily prohibitive, like Belgium, the high level of bureaucracy means that women’s participation is pretty much zero. Therefore, it’s extremely important that women are part of the discussions and make their voice heard.
Luckily, there are many hard working females in mobility. Given the sector is often perceived as being male-dominated, I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of women advocating for forward-looking mobility policies in Brussels, starting with MaaS Alliance’s Secretary General Piia Karjalainen.
There’s also strong support from men: leaders like UITP Secretary General Mohamed Mezghani or Pedro Homem de Gouveia from Polis who are actually the strongest advocates for women out there. I’ve also found there’s fantastic camaraderie within the sector and between policymakers. It’s been very rewarding so far; I’m grateful to be part of this industry.
About Zuzana Púčiková
Zuzana has more than 15 years experience in public affairs and communications in and around European institutions and the media. Prior to Uber she worked in EU public policy for Amazon as well as representing the European Payment Institutions Federation and EU tech association EDiMA.
Passionate about shaping policy to support consumers, innovation and growth, Zuzana takes a pragmatic, balanced approach that encourages collaboration and partnership between public and private players. When she’s not busy working she likes to spend time with her husband and children.
Connect with Zuzana on LinkedIn.