Altitude, transforming public transport through technology

By Charles Lotara

The boredom that comes with waiting from a lift from ever-congested public transport could come to an end with the advent of the new Uber-powered digital transport technology, Altitude.

First of its kind in the country, Altitude has officially started rolling out customized services which include picking and dropping off passengers at their time and place of convenience as well-serviced cars, motorbikes and other public transport means are on standby for booking.

The technology is not new according to the Managing Director Abraham Berachi who told Juba Monitor that the establishment was done in 2017 but the technology has been on a test mode. With its official launch this year, step-by-step process to educate the people about the innovation has started.

Also known as “Hail & Ride” technology, the potential customer only needs to install the Altitude Passenger application integrated with Google Maps and Global Position Systems (GPS) which allows requisition for a ride by simply tapping the name of the place of departure and the final destination. This app is available on Google Play, for android users, and App Store, for iOS users.

“It’s about safety and convenience,” Berachi explained. The technology has started off on a steady pace, with careful recruitment of experienced and carefully trained drivers. With 22 local drivers so far recruited, this is an employment created, but only drivers with road discipline can grab the opportunity.

While this innovation is open for everyone, hotel guests, United Nations Agencies, and corporate world can take advantage of the distinct logistical services.

Uber Technologies, an American multinational ridesharing company offering services that include peer-to-peer ridesharing, and ride service hailing is working toward transforming the world through aerial ridesharing at scale.

In South Sudan however, Berachi said Altitude is customized to suit the South Sudan environment so as to ease and facilitate smart public transport system. Imagine being picked on a special van out of congested ground passengers waiting for transport?

However, Altitude will need time for this innovation to become fully embedded within the city and beyond. The new tech needs thorough education about how Google Maps and GPS function. Another potential challenges highlighted by Berachi is the level of internet penetration. According to the Global Internet Index report of 2018, South Sudan’s Internet penetration stands at 4%.

To Altitude, the good news about the Internet usage is that a quarter of the above percentage is confined within the capital, Juba. It’s not over just yet. The influx of substandard smartphones which does not accommodate so many applications is another cause for the concern to the company.

Hail & Ride as the name suggests, a passenger holds his or gadget and manages the direction using the Altitude Passenger app. Drivers can use Altitude Driver, an application developed specifically for them.

As technology keeps evolving, Berachi told Juba Monitor that this technological changes remind Altitude on how to elevate humans through the provision of real-world solutions to real-life problems.

Technology in South Sudan remains a developing phenomenon, but this did not prevent many tech giants from venturing into the business. Internet Service providers like RCS Communications and IPTEC Limited are some of the notable companies, though their services are far different from that of Altitude.

Uber’s invention of Altitude is not a surprising development. After helping to bring self-driving cars to the road last year, Uber’s next step was to take it to a place where it wouldn’t need roads. At its then second Elevate Summit in Los Angeles, Uber has unveiled its design reference for its electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) concept, a flying car for its future urban aviation ride-hailing network.

Known internally as the eCRM-003, the eVTOL common reference model looked a bit like a cross between a massive drone and a small airplane.

With four rotors, actually four pairs of co-rotating rotors, for a total of eight props — are driven by electric motors providing vertical lift and bringing the vehicle to its cruising altitude between 1,000 and 2,000 feet.

Being fully electric with multiple small rotors instead of a single large one, it should be quieter than a conventional helicopter and more efficient. The multiple rotors also add redundancy, so the eVTOL should be safer as well.

The design is built around the passenger compartment, featuring space for up to four passengers with their personal bags or backpacks. The spec has been penned to make boarding and deplaning easy with the design keeping the rotors and wings up and as far away from passengers as possible.

Early eVTOLs will be piloted by a human, but the ultimate goal is for these vehicles to become autonomous.

Future eVTOLs won’t just be landing in your driveway. The UberAir vision places skyports at strategic locations around urban centers where passengers will begin and end flights. The skyport model, Uber says, allows the company to effectively manage noise pollution, trip routing and flight planning coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration and local air control.

Passengers will plan and request flights within the same Uber passenger app used for ground transportation, which will also allow them to plan first- and last-mile transport to and from these skyports.

As Berachi, they will continue to improve workability of Altitude to give their customers better experience. A reach to what happened in Los Angeles will be a milestone, not only to the people of South Sudan where this rare technology has emerged, but Africa as a continent.


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