German multinational automakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler are seeking larger shares of the U.S. urban mobility market. BMW has entered the car-sharing market with the launch of its ReachNow service in Seattle, Wash., while Daimler is merging its route-planning service with a mobile ticketing company to form a North American unit of its mobility services unit, moovel Group.
The announcements follow similar moves from Ford and General Motors (GM) back in January. Ford’s platform, FordPass, offers access to concierge services, smart parking, car-sharing, mobile payment and more. GM’s on-demand car-sharing service and “personal mobility” brand Maven complements the company’s $500 million investment in ride-for-hire service Lyft.
BMW’s ReachNow launched April 8 in Seattle, where it is offering customers the use of 370 BMW and MINI vehicles. ReachNow’s services include short-term rentals, delivery services, chauffeur services, and longer-term rentals. BMW said that car-sharing services can also be made available to closed groups such as companies or residential complexes. The vehicles will be unlocked via the customers’ smartphones.
BMW has a similar service in Europe called DriveNow, launched in 2011 in major German cities, Vienna and parts of London with a model that allows users to make one-way journeys without having to return the car to the point of departure. The service has proven profitable and boasts over 450,000 users. One of its most attractive features is that clients do not have to worry about where to park – an aspect that will be shared by its American counterpart.
ReachNow vehicles are paid for by the minute up to an automatic price cap time limit is reached. According to the service’s website, “Parking is always free in public spaces within the Home Area,” meaning that in addition to the fuel/charging and insurance costs, parking at public meters and in residential parking zones within most of Seattle are included in the per-minute rates. Once the car is parked, customers can keep the vehicle reserved at a discounted per-minute rate or can end their trip.
Meanwhile, Daimler’s moovel Group announced its expansion into the U.S. on April 14, with the merger of Austin, Texas-based RideScout and Portland, Ore.-based GlobeSherpa as moovel North America. Daimler says it formed moovel “in order to seek answers to urban transportation challenges and discover new technologies” that will affect the future of mobility, adding that the company “recognizes that increasing urbanization combined with the rise of the sharing economy has presented a new way to create transportation services for commuters of tomorrow.”
To that effect, moovel is expected to become “one connected experience for transportation providers, app companies, and consumers,” where transportation information and booking and payment options are available. moovel’s initial two products will be based on the former offerings of GlobeSherpa and RideScout.
GlobeSherpa’s TransitSherpa platform, a suite of white-labeled mobile ticketing and payment solutions for public transit authorities is currently used by 13 clients in the U.S. Now known as moovel transit, the service will continue to help integrate public transit apps with the rest of the urban transportation ecosystem, including first/last mile options like bike share and on-demand car services.
moovel’s RideTap is “an evolution of the RideScout app’s functionality,” intended for app developers. Through the RideTap network and software development kit (SDK), both transportation and non-transportation apps can “provide a frictionless, real-time multimodal experience to their users” by integrating RideTap. For example, transit apps can use RideTap to solve first/last mile issues, or a restaurant review app can integrate RideTap to help users get to their location. It is currently operating in private beta in Portland through the TriMet Tickets mobile app, where riders can request a Lyft or reserve a car2go, and will launch to a broader audience later this year.
moovel Group already operates car2go, one of the largest car-sharing services in the world, and has invested in ride-for-hire services such as mytaxi in Europe. The moovel app allows users to book and pay for car2go, mytaxi, Flinkster, Deutsche Bahn, and public transportation throughout Germany.
moovel Group’s global CEO Jörg Lamparter stressed that they believe the future of mobility should be an ecosystem. The co-founders and former CEOs of GlobeSherpa and RideScout share that vision, and will take executive roles at moovel as the CEO of moovel North America and president of moovel Group, respectively.
“We want all forms of transportation, from public transit to rideshare to on-demand ride apps, to break out of their silos and become organized into one well-connected experience, with public transit as the foundational core,” said Nat Parker, the new CEO of moovel North America and co-founder/former CEO of GlobeSherpa.
“Transportation is no longer just a question of options, but of convenience and ease of use. Our exceptional teams in Portland and Austin are in pursuit of the most seamless experience for both transportation providers and consumers to define the future of mobility.”