First-of-its-kind Uber study outlines practical steps to end Australia’s over-reliance on private cars 

One Less Car trial saw 58 Australians give up their cars for four weeks

Access to four alternate modes of transport is crucial for sustainable change 

New research from Uber reveals that Australians must “make four the norm” if the country wants to end its entrenched reliance on the private car. Australia currently has one of the highest rates of car ownership in the world, even though cars sit idle 95% of the time. If Aussies want to embrace a car-light future, they must have access to four or more modes of transportation, including public transport, bikes, e-scooters, walking, cycling and rideshare. 

This research is the culmination of the first-of-its-kind trial, One Less Car, which Uber ran earlier this year in partnership with behavioural scientists The Behavioural Architects, micro-mobility company Lime, eBike subscription service Lug+Carrie and Uber Carshare. The trial sought to explore the challenges and opportunities of car-light lifestyles, and it saw 58 everyday Australians give up their cars and use other modes of transport as they went about their lives for four weeks.

“We believe that Australia’s road to zero emissions depends not solely on EV adoption, but on a fundamental shift across society away from private car dependence. With One Less Car, we set out to explore just what it would take to disrupt Aussies’ reliance on their cars, and the results have been clear that there is appetite and opportunity for real change. The data tells a fascinating story and suggests that embracing a car-light lifestyle could deliver significant benefits to individuals, cities and our planet. Encouragingly, we believe there are some immediate steps Australian cities and citizens can take to build a car-light future today.”

 -Dom Taylor, General Manager, Uber Australia & New Zealand

Upon giving up their cars, the weekly average number of trips among trial participants dropped slightly from 21 to 19; however the number of transportation modes used increased significantly, averaging four modes of transport. Walking, cycling and rideshare were found to be the “MVPs” of the trial with the latter two increasing 4-5 times in frequency of use. Participants’ step counts also increased, and they reported health and wellbeing benefits, while satisfaction with their communities increased by 10%. Full results are captured in a new whitepaper out today, One Less Car: Shifting to a Sustainable Transport Future.

One Less Car: the trial

The private vehicle dominates Australia’s transport landscape, with 72% of Australia’s mobility trips taking place in a car, significantly outpacing walking or cycling (15%), public transport (13%) or rideshare and taxi (1%). 

Taking place from May to June this year, the One Less Car trial saw thousands of expressions of interest before 58 Australians were selected across the country’s capital cities to participate. A range of people across different stages of lives and owning between 0 and 2+ cars were included in the trial. To offset their car usage, participants received a total of $1350 in transport credits including public transport, a Lug+Carrie subscription, an Uber One membership and credits for Uber, Lime and Uber Carshare. This amount was chosen to reflect the average yearly spend of ~$16,000 associated with owning a car

One Less Car: the results 

Over the four-week period living without their cars, participants used, on average, four transport modes per week. Walking, cycling and rideshare emerged as the most valuable and frequented alternatives to private car trips. 

Across all the different trip occasions, participants reported they were able to replace the majority of car trips with alternative transport methods. Walking was the biggest replacement for personal car use, increasing 75%, while the largest proportional gains were cycling and rideshare increasing 4-5 times. Train and bus trips increased 156% and 86% respectively, and carshare use tripled.

Uber’s research reveals three main barriers to living car free in Australia: 1) inequitable access to transport alternatives, 2) inconsistent quality, convenience and reliability of alternative transport and 3) the high perceived value and affordability of car usage. This last point in particular appears to contradict reality, as Uber analysis suggests 2.5 million cars in Australia are under-utilised, and cars driven less than 5,000 km/year may not make financial sense for their owners.

Reducing car dependency in Australia

In addition to “making four the norm,” Uber Australia is now encouraging city leaders to focus on seven key actions to support Australia’s transition to a car-light future:

One Less Car Policy Recommendations

Target: Make Four the Norm

Impact Now (immediate steps):

  1. Invest in infrastructure to increase accessibility
  2. Improve the quality, reliability, and convenience for every trip
  3. Raise awareness of travel choices and emphasise the benefits 
  4. Target people who are ready to shift and scale up what works

Lasting Impact (longer term):

  1. Enabling plans and strategies to support 4+ travel modes
  2. Whole-of-government policy reform toward one less car
  3. Bet on big mass transit projects

Additional detail on these recommendations can be found in the whitepaper.

Additional quotes from One Less Car Participants:

Ian, Sydney resident, owner of two cars: “I usually have a highly predictable routine and travel movements, and there is a substitute for most of those. So I resolved that I’m going to sell my car sometime soon in about four to six weeks.” 

Miranda, Brisbane resident, owner of one car: “Taking fewer private car trips has required adaptability, resourcefulness and a shift in perspective. But, despite the challenges, the rewards and benefits have made the positive experience worthwhile. I definitely intend to continue exploring alternative methods of transportation, while acknowledging the occasions where a private car may be more practical.”

Additional quotes from One Less Car Partners:

Hugo Burt Morris, General Manager at Lime: “As part of our mission to help build a future where transport is shared, affordable, and carbon-free, sparking conversations that help Aussies rethink their relationship with their car is a crucial step. The One Less Car trial found that a diverse mix of transport options including e-scooters and e-bikes will be needed to help Aussies reduce their reliance on personal vehicles, and we believe that micromobility is a fundamental part of that mix.”

Benjamin Carr, Founder at Lug+ Carrie: “It was fantastic to see in the One Less Car experiment families embracing the accessibility and convenience of e-bikes. We’ve seen cities all over the world adopt car-light lifestyles successfully, and we hope this experiment will ignite this conversation in Australia, so we can all reap the benefits of people replacing trips on a bike and more liveable cities.”