You would think Uber is taking a bit of a hit from the 1600 e-scooters now zooming around Auckland and Christchurch.

And you would probably be right.

An Uber NZ staffer won't comment on local numbers but says the ride-share company has felt the impact of the e-scooter boom on the west coast of the US - so it's easy to imagine it's crimping on Uber's short-hop business here, too.

But if you think you're giving Uber one in the eye everytime you use Lime, think again.

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There are two factors that mean the ride-sharing giant is actually pretty relaxed about the e-scooter boom.

One is that in July, Uber and Google Ventures invested US$335 million in the 18-month-old Lime, which then had a private equity valuation of US1b.

As part of the deal, Uber and Lime agreed to share app technology. Now, every time you locate or unlock a Lime, you're using Uber software.

And in August, the pair got closer as Uber agreed to supply e-bikes to Lime - Uber having bought hot Californian e-bike sharing startup Jump in April for US$200m.

The other is that Uber plans to launch its own scooters and e-bikes in New Zealand and other countries in 2019, a rep for the company tells the Herald.

In October, Uber started an e-scooter trial in the LA suburb of Santa Monica (with Jump-branded scooters), and it already e-bikes in San Francisco via its Jump acquisition as it looks to expand its business beyond cars.

In a related move, the company has begun trial of "Uber walkers" in Auckland over the past week, involving three car-less operatives who deliver Uber Eats on foot.

"We are proud to have an average delivery time of less than 30 mins in Auckland," Uber Eats' NZ country manager Andy Bowie says.

UberEats is set to offer on-foot delivery in congested areas. Photo/Getty Images.
UberEats is set to offer on-foot delivery in congested areas. Photo/Getty Images.

"[But] traffic congestion can be extremely challenging for delivery partners in inner-Auckland to complete deliveries quickly. Finding a park, picking up an order, and driving to another location in less than 15 minutes once an order is ready becomes unrealistic at peak times."

That's why Bowie looked to elsewhere in the Uber empire for inspiration, and followed the "walker" example already trialled in Mexico City, Hong Kong and New York.

It's all part of Uber's broader "new modalities" push, which is a management-speak way of saying the company both concedes that the likes of e-scooters, e-bikes and other non-car alternatives are stealing part of its business - and acknowledges that they do a better job in some scenarios.

Lime's global push, which includes 1600 e-scooters on the streets of Auckland (pictured) and Christchurch, is bankrolled in part by Uber. Photo / Chris Keall.
Lime's global push, which includes 1600 e-scooters on the streets of Auckland (pictured) and Christchurch, is bankrolled in part by Uber. Photo / Chris Keall.

New Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who took the reins from Uber's controversial founder Travis Kalanick in August 2017, says he wants his company to be "the Amazon of transportation."

And increasingly in the future, he says that transportation won't be a car.

"During rush hour, it is very inefficient for a one-tonne hulk of metal to take one person 10 blocks," the Expedia/Trivago alumnus told the Financial Times.

Hence the new focus on "new modalities."

"Short-term financially, maybe it's not a win for us, but strategically long term we think that is exactly where we want to head," Khosrowshahi said.

It's better for Uber to cannibalise its own business that have others do it, he added.

Over the weekend, the US business press has run rumour stories that Uber will mount a full takeover of Lime.

If local contender Onzo (which was supposed to launch its e-scooters on November 10) or Wave (which blew a November 30 deadline) want to gain any traction, they need to get a wriggle on.