The proliferation of mobile phones has led to a surge in applications that track user data in various formats. As part of the growing gig economy, ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft have blossomed into enormously successful tech companies. With only 5 percent of cars actually utilized at any given time, these companies deftly integrated built-in geolocation services of smartphones with a network of willing drivers that offer a new revenue stream for car owners, unparalleled travel convenience for other users, and increased vehicle utilization. The industry for car sharing services has become so lucrative that Uber’s possible IPO next year could be valued at $120 billion. However, these services have come with a cost. A cost that has quietly accumulated in the background until recent high-profile revelations of improper data use and hacking of tech company servers, compromising sensitive information of millions of users.
Several new autonomous vehicle services will launch next year, but investors still need to play the long game in this market. Companies eager to prove they’re on the cutting edge in the semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicle space seem to view 2019 as a pivotal year for bringing their self-driving technologies to the public through ride-hailing services — even if those moves may be limited in scope at first.
What Alastair MacLeod wants is what most anyone stuck in gridlock or waiting for a cab, bus or train wants. “What we want is lowering the burden for citizens of getting from A to B.” MacLeod is the CEO of Switzerland-based data company Teralytics. His company is one of three partnering with the Volkswagen Group in developing a system, announced this week, to manage traffic by forecasting volumes in urban areas, as well as demand for various mobility options. The idea is to give public transportation departments, taxi and rideshare companies as well as those renting bicycles and electric scooters a better idea of where and when to place their fleets. Quantum computer company D-Wave is providing the high-powered hardware, running the data created by Teralytics. Google completes the triumvirate.
Spin, the dockless electric scooter startup, has a new owner: Ford. The news broke yesterday, and the auto giant officially confirmed the acquisition on Thursday morning. It probably won’t come as a big shock to those watching this fast-growing space. E-scooter startups that are barely a year old have spread like wildfire across the globe and seen their valuations skyrocket. It was only a matter of time until a company like Ford, which has funneled revenue from SUV and truck sales into a variety of mobility projects over the years, would eventually buy some scooters.
While the sharing economy has grown by leaps and bounds in China in recent years, it hasn’t been without challenges. There have been reports of opposition from taxi groups and hotel organizations to transportation and housing sharing economy companies. Like what we’ve seen with Uber and other enterprises in the U.S. and elsewhere, services like Didi, a car-sharing company that now operates legally in China, started without getting explicit permission when it launched six years ago. When the Chinese government legalized Didi, it asked that the company meet certain conditions — including seeking permission in each city where it wants to operate. While there are still many issues that need to be resolved in China’s growing sharing economy, especially in terms of legality and security, we were also introduced to several sharing projects that seem to be promoting job growth and providing a robust platform for workers and entrepreneurs from various professional backgrounds.
Alliance Ventures, the strategic venture capital arm of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, has invested in the latest round of funding in Transit, a multi-modal transportation mobile app company. The Montreal-based company’s mobile app aggregates and maps real-time transportation data servicing some 175 metropolitan areas globally. Alliance Ventures was established earlier this year to support start-ups, early-stage development and entrepreneurs at the cutting edge of next-generation systems for the automotive industry. Transit’s mobile app platform enables multi-modal transportation, integrating public transit, ride-hailing, bike-sharing, and scooter-sharing.
Getaround has arrived in San Diego with its peer-to-peer car-sharing scheme, with each car equipped with a proprietary technology that enables renters to locate and unlock the vehicle through the Getaround app. Car owners in San Diego can now reduce the financial burden of car ownership by sharing their car, and earning money when people rent it. San Diegans who choose to live car-free can rent nearby vehicles – by the hour or the day – with no need to meet the owner in-person to collect the keys.
It appears that General Motors is switching from four wheels to two, as the Detroit automaker announced Friday that it’s launching its own eBike brand. More importantly, it’s willing to pay someone up to $10,000 to come up with a name for it because it hasn’t been able to pick one on its own. GM isn’t the first automaker to get involved with bicycles. Ford lends its name to a bike-sharing service operated by Lyft-owned Motivate, and several automakers have pasted their names and logos on bikes as a branding exercise. However, GM claims its eBikes are a product of the same engineering process as its cars.
The rise of air mobility options ranging from delivery drones to air taxis and flying cars is shaping up as the biggest thing to hit aviation since the introduction of jet engines, NASA’s top official on aeronautics says. “I happen to believe that this is a revolution coming in aviation,” Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics, told a Seattle audience this week. “But if we do not methodically practice our best practices and all the know-how in the aviation field, this could become a total disaster.”
Mary T. Barra, the chief executive of General Motors, said the company is “on track” to roll out a ride-sharing service in 2019 that would rely on autonomous vehicles, a development that would advance the already-heated race to bring a self-driving car to market. “We’re on track, with our rate of learning, to be able to do that next year,” Ms. Barra said at DealBook’s Playing for the Long Term conference. She added that the company had a strategy to show how its vehicles are safer than human drivers. The vehicles can currently run safely at speeds of up to about 30 miles per hour, and the service will be limited to a small geographical area, Ms. Barra said.