German automaker Mercedes is looking to the future with an on demand ride sharing service.
The service is being offered in combination with mobility service Via and will launch in Orange County, CA, whereas ride-sharing services generally concentrate on urban areas. The initiative pairs nicely with Mercedes’ ongoing strategy of remaining at the forefront of technological innovation and environmental consciousness.
“This deal should make patrons feel good about Mercedes and see the brand as one that is catering to the needs of consumers,” said Jeff Hasen, founder of Gotta Mobilize, Seattle. “Whether it turns into more car sales remains to be seen, but the service that it is providing should increase Mercedes’ likability and approachability marks.”
Via currently operates in larger cities such as New York and Chicago, but the partnership with Mercedes represents its first bid in suburban markets. Mercedes will provide Metris passenger vans, ensuring that the largest number of people can fit inside, therefore minimizing carbon emissions.
With the mobile application, passengers will select individual pick-up and drop-off points and, for just $5, will be transported in a “premium ride with experienced drivers.” Via will then calculate the best routes and drop-off points and adjust them as needed.
The service marks a strong contrast from mobility startups such as Uber, Lyft and Hailo, which are primarily thought of as private services in which a single consumer or group pays a variable rate based on distance. With Via, rides will always cost $5 and consumers be placed in the van with one another.
“We’re delighted to be working with Mercedes-Benz to explore new ways to extend our vision for convenient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives to existing transportation,” said Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via, in a statement. “Ride-sharing provides a unique solution to the challenge of reducing the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road, without the high-cost and limitations of creating new public transit infrastructure.
“By utilizing Mercedes’ world class vehicles and experiences in mobility services as well as Via’s passenger aggregation and route optimization technology, we’re excited to bring on-demand transportation to south Orange County,” he said.
“Mercedes has been at the forefront of developing innovative mobility solutions. In the urban market, we have car2go, the largest carsharing fleet in the world,” said Rasheq Zarif, senior manager of Mercedes-Benz’ Business Innovation Group North America, in a statement. “We are looking to the future and focusing on the challenge of mobility in the suburban environment.”
“As the nature of mobility shifts, it’s not compelling to remain a vehicle manufacturer but to develop into a mobility provider,” he said. “Partnering with Via helps us take an active role in testing new ways of future mobility.”