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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Daimler to launch ride-sharing service in London

Via, working with Daimler since 2015, said to plan US$200 million for the expansion

Daimler and Via aim to roll-out app-based service in UK capital. Sascha Schuermann / AFP
Daimler and Via aim to roll-out app-based service in UK capital. Sascha Schuermann / AFP

Daimler will start ride-sharing shuttles in London later this year, expanding its cooperation with the US start-up Via Transportation, whose on-demand service racks up 1 million rides a month across New York, Chicago and Washington.

The mobile app-based pick-up service, based in Amsterdam, will be rolled out soon to more European cities, Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler and Via said Monday in a joint statement.

Via, working with Daimler since 2015, plans to raise a total of US$200 million for the expansion, people familiar with the process said. While Daimler is the lead investor, the parties did not disclose a funding amount. Adding to the strategic investment, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz Vans unit will contribute $50m to the new partnership.

“On-demand ride-sharing offers many new ways of making city traffic efficient, needs-based and sustainable,” said Volker Mornhinweg, the head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. “Via is one of the most successful providers in the growing ride-sharing sector while Mercedes-Benz Vans has the perfect vehicles.”

Car makers are increasing investments in partnerships with companies offering new services as urban consumers show less interest in owning a car. Toyota Motor last month invested an undisclosed amount in Grab, South East Asia’s leading ride-hailing operator, a year after it bought a small stake in San Francisco-based industry heavyweight Uber Technologies.

Offering rides in specially customised Mercedes Vito and V-Class vans will boost Daimler’s suite of services beyond selling vehicles, in addition to its Car2Go car-sharing programme and Mytaxi hailing and Moovel transport apps. The venture with New York-based Via will be open to cooperating with public-transport authorities for licensing, Daimler said.

The Via service works by connecting multiple passengers who are headed the same way, allowing riders to share a vehicle. It was first offered in New York in 2013. Users request a shared ride through an app, and an algorithm finds a suitable vehicle headed in the same direction, reducing detours.

Combining Via’s technology with Mercedes-Benz Vans was “ideal for our vision of offering efficient, affordable, sustainable, and convenient shared rides everywhere,” said the Via chief executive Daniel Ramot.