Super Cities №133 — Why Analog Innovation Works

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

Innovating on two wheels

“During rush hour, it is very inefficient for a one-tonne hulk of metal to take one person 10 blocks,” he told the Financial Times in an interview. “We’re able to shape behaviour in a way that’s a win for the user. It’s a win for the city. 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.”

After probing the outer limits of a Jetsons-like future, Uber has come to a central truth: right now, people want an updated version of an old-school scooter, not an on-demand, robot-operated mini jet.

That’s right.

Analog innovation is back.

When packaged correctly, a skateboard, steering column, motor, battery, two wheels, and smartphone app can change the way cities operate.

In the world of fast-moving innovation, frontier technologies — like artificial intelligence and augmented reality — suck up all the oxygen.

But do you know where amazing innovation comes from?

People tinkering in garages. People attaching a scooter to an engine and building a way to reserve and pay for that thing with a mobile phone.

You won’t catch me cruising on a scooter through Brooklyn with a Timbuk2 bag strapped across my chest, but cheers to those who made that possible.

(For those interested, Uber has received a lot of attention on The Maze. I have criticized its leadership; encouraged its refreshed corporate focus; and praised its less is more approach.)