Mercedes-Benz Vans sets up joint venture with U.S. startup Via for European on-demand ride-sharing service
Mercedes-Benz Vans, the van division of Daimler AG, is setting up a joint venture for ride sharing with U.S. startup company Via. Additionally, Daimler Mobility Services is joining as a strategic investor in Via. The corresponding declarations were signed Sept. 4 in Stuttgart. The Via algorithm is designed to support smart public transport which enables a mass transit system to reduce traffic volume in urban areas. As part of the cooperation, Mercedes-Benz Vans is investing $50 million in the new joint venture. For Daimler Mobility Services, Volker Mornhinweg will be joining Via’s board of directors.
Headquartered in New York, Via’s shared ride service in New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. reportedly provides over 1 million rides per month, and its technology is licensed by partners around the world.
Together, Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via aim to introduce on-demand shared rides in Europe. With Via’s shared rides, passengers headed in the same direction are 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 cities will soon follow.
"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," said Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans.
"We are delighted to have the Daimler Group on board as an investor and strategic partner. 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," stated Daniel Ramot, Co-founder and CEO of Via.
"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," commented Oren Shoval, CTO and Co-founder of Via.
Via’s goal is a dynamic, on-demand network that provides a supplement to existing transportation networks. Passengers request rides through a mobile app, and Via’s algorithm finds a vehicle that best matches the passenger’s route, allowing for shared trips without detours that take riders out of their way.
The joint venture between Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via will operate as a new entity with headquarters in Amsterdam. The joint goal is to bring on-demand shared rides to Europe. The joint venture will not only launch its own service in European cities, but will also license Via’s technology—the On-Demand Shuttle Operating System—to third parties, such as transport service providers and local public transit operators. By enabling vans to be dynamically routed between virtual bus stops distributed across the city, the aim is to reduce traffic volume in cities without requiring the construction of new infrastructure.
Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via will in the future cooperate on the further development of intelligent mobility, including optimizing the design of Mercedes-Benz Vans vehicles for shared ride use. The models mainly used will be the Vito Tourer (up to nine seats) and the V-Class (up to eight seats); the models will be continuously adapted for this intended use. Another focus of the long-term strategic partnership is the use of the locally emission-free electric-drive Mercedes-Benz Vito and autonomous driving.