Take a ride on the technology side

January 31: French outfit Le Cab has joined forces with tech firm Via to create PLUS, a new breed of ride sourcing for Paris, and France.

take-a-ride-on-the_le-cabPowered by Via’s proprietary algorithm platform, PLUS drivers (Mercedes Class 5 vehicle) collect customers along a route – so they are sharing a car rather than riding alone – so it costs them less. To be priced at a flat rate of €5 from February 21, until then passengers pay just €1 for a trip (7am to 9pm) within the launch zone – affluent districts to the west of the city.

Public transport actor Keolis, majority shareholder of Le Cab since March 2016, is investing in the venture.

Is PLUS seeking to out Uber UberPOOL, which came to Paris in 2014, or take on the ‘traditional’ taxi?  “We’re not competing with taxis but the private car,” insists Le Cab founder Benjamin Cardoso.

The offer is counting on Via’s smart routing algorithms  to seduce riders, enabling pick-ups and drop-offs in an endless stream without taking anyone out of their way to accommodate others. Says Via: ‘this means the system transports a high volume of passengers while using a fraction of the number of vehicles utilised by taxis or on-demand car services.’

Filling places in the car (room for six) as efficiently as possible, again thanks to the technology, should also ensure drivers earn a decent fee.

take-a-ride-on-the_via-screenshot

 

Headquartered in New York with developers in Tel Aviv, Via has already cut its teeth in the Big Apple, Chicago, and Washington DC.

Anything new that challenges the old, in every walk of life, is always likely to raise eyebrows. PLUS in Paris is no exception:

  • Among the metro, bus, tram and Vélib bike sharing, a solo taxi, standard ride services, and the private car, is there a niche and demand for it?

take-a-ride-on-the_diagram

  • Will PLUS entice passengers away from public transport?
  • Will Parisians want to share with ‘strangers’? The main attraction of the car, after all, being its promise of personal space – a luxury much sought after in such a dense-tense city.

Stateside, there is indeed appetite for this kind of ride sourcing, confirms Via co-founder Oren Shoval. The start-up has even introduced a monthly pass costing €250.

But Via’s not alone. Boston-based Bridj is offering something akin, albeit not in the same cities. It has joined forces with Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) and automaker Ford to deliver RideKC – ride sourcing designed to boost existing mass transit by providing greater mobility options. The one-year pilot programme began in March 2016.

“I think the next step for transit is an on-demand service that doesn’t necessarily deliver passengers from door-to-door, but can dynamically calculate pick-up and drop-off points in real-time that satisfies all destinations,” Greg Lindsay, journalist and speaker, told Passion4Transport.

“Bridj and Via are both aiming to do just that, although Bridj seems focused on vehicles the size of a minibus (14 seats or more), while Via appears determined to algorithmically out-compete UberPOOL using vehicles for six to eight passengers. I’d be curious to see someone run a minibus fleet using either one — at what point can smaller, dynamic vehicles compete with fixed-route transit on cost and passenger volume, assuming it can be done at all?”

take-a-ride-on-the_le-cab-plus_bus-stop

A PLUS billboard, spotted at a bus stop 69 in the east of Paris, reads ‘With a ride at €1, spend winter in the warm.’ A single bus ticket costs under €2.

If there’s a crowd of folk waiting, the bus is late or arrives packed to the gills (often the case with route 69, especially at travel peaks), or the weather is lousy, people who might never consider calling a cab might well pay  €1 and  €5 (from February 21).

“Rather than making decisions between modes, consumers will make decisions among modes,” says Susan Shaheen, adjunct professor and co-director, Transportation Sustainability Research Center, University of California, Berkeley, in The shape of things to come: Experts on future transport in 2017.

A further plus of PLUS in Paris lies in its promotion as a means of powering efficient ridesharing. A position that rejoins mayor Anne Hidalgo‘s crusade to curb traffic congestion and carbon emissions.

According to Airparif, 60% of nitrogen oxide emissions and 50% of primary particle emissions in Paris are linked to road traffic.

With Keolis on board,  Via is gaining a crucial foothold in Europe as it plans further moves. “Having a local actor,  a specialist in public transport, is definitely important for us,” confirmed Mr Shoval.

Indeed it’s very much a case of each actor playing to their strengths as they eye their slice of the new mobility pie.

Keolis is keen to remain at the forefront of innovative offerings – be they shared, autonomous, mobile app- or alternative fuel-orientated. Building up a rich portfolio, of which Le Cab, gives the Group an extra card up its sleeve when competing for operating tenders – both on its French home turf and worldwide.

In business since 2012, Le Cab today has upwards of 80 employees, 8,000 driver partners, and operates in the Paris region as well as 20+ urban areas across France.

USP: shared on-demand transport promises dynamic mobility freed from fixed routes and fixed timetables.

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