Mercedes-Benz Vans said Monday it was expanding its collaboration with Israeli-founded US startup Via to enter the ride-sharing market and to introduce on-demand shared rides to the European market.
Via has developed an on-demand ride-sharing service: its mobile app connects multiple passengers who are headed the same way, allowing riders to share a vehicle. In the joint venture with Mercedes-Benz Vans, passengers headed in the same direction will be matched with a single van, increasing vehicle utilization while relieving the strain on inner-city roads.
London will be the first city to launch the new joint service this year. Other European metropolises will soon follow, Mercedes’ parent company Daimler AG said in a statement. Via, which has been working with Daimler since 2015, plans to raise a total of $200 million for the joint expansion, Bloomberg said, citing people familiar with the process.
First launched in New York City in September 2013, and founded by Israelis Daniel Ramot and Oren Shoval, the Via platform currently operates in New York City, Chicago, and Washington DC, providing over a million rides per month. Via also licenses its on demand transit technology to transportation operators globally.
“The fusion of Via’s technology with the engineering of Mercedes-Benz Vans creates the perfect match for efficient, affordable and sustainable ride-sharing,” Daimler said in a statement.
As part of the cooperation, Mercedes-Benz Vans is initially investing $50 million US dollars in the new joint venture, while Daimler Mobility Services is additionally joining in as a strategic investor in Via. Mercedes-Benz Vans will be joining Via’s board of directors.
“On-demand ride-sharing offers many new ways of making city traffic efficient, needs-based and sustainable – especially when it involves the use of spacious, safe and comfortable vans,” says Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. “Via is one of the most successful providers in the growing ride-sharing market while Mercedes-Benz Vans has the fitting vehicles that are being continuously optimised for this job. By deepening our cooperation with Via, we are thus taking the next logical step in the context of our strategy for the future and are expanding our range of new mobility services.”
The investment is part of the Daimler strategy to focus “on pioneering innovations and digitization,especially in the four fields of connectivity, autonomous driving flexible use and shared services and electric drive systems,” the statement said.
“Combining Via’s technology with the exceptional design and engineering of Mercedes-Benz Vans is ideal for our vision of offering efficient, affordable, sustainable, and comfortable shared rides everywhere,” said Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via.
The joint venture between Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via will operate as a new entity with headquarters in Amsterdam. The joint venture will not only launch its own service in European cities, but will also license Via’s proprietary technology – the On-Demand Shuttle Operating System – to third parties, such as transport service providers and local public transit operators.
“Having completed over 20 million rides, we at Via know that having the right vehicle is crucial for providing the best customer experience. We are excited to expand our successful partnership with Daimler, which began in 2015, and collaborate on developing the optimal vehicle for the future of mobility,” said Oren Shoval, CTO and co-founder of Via.
By enabling vans to be routed between thousands of virtual bus stops distributed across the city, this public transit approach will help reduce traffic volume in cities without requiring the construction of costly new infrastructure, the statement said.
As part of their long-term strategic partnership, Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via will in the future also cooperate on the further development of intelligent mobility, including optimizing the design of a Mercedes-Benz Vans vehicle for shared ride use and focus on developing advanced sensors and autonomous driving technology, the statement said.