Mercedes and Via joint venture to launch on-demand rideshare service in Europe

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Daimler’s van division, Mercedes-Benz Vans, is setting up a joint venture with the USA-based startup Via, to bring its on-demand shuttle service to European metropolises, with London to be the first city to launch the joint service later this year.

Mercedes-Benz Vans is investing US$50m in the new joint venture, with Daimler Mobility Services additionally joining as a strategic investor in Via. Headquartered in New York, Via’s successful shared ride service in New York City, Chicago, and Washington DC provides over one million rides per month, and its revolutionary technology is licensed by partners around the world. Unlike other ride-hailing companies, Via has focused on developing, from the ground up, a scalable and on-demand shared ride system. The intelligent Via algorithm supports smart public transport, enabling a dynamic mass transit system that reduces traffic volume in urban areas.

Mercedes and Via aim to introduce on-demand shared rides in Europe, with the startup’s revolutionary technology used to change the way people get around cities. With Via’s intelligent shared rides, passengers headed in the same direction are matched with a single van, increasing vehicle usage while relieving the strain on inner-city roads.

London will be the first city to launch the new joint service later this year, and other European metropolitan regions due to follow in the near future. Operating as a new entity with headquarters in Amsterdam, the joint venture will also partner with public transit operators across Europe, licensing Via’s On-Demand Shuttle Operating System to enable cities to significantly improve mobility while reducing congestion, without incurring any additional infrastructure costs.

Via is aiming to re-engineer public transit from a regulated system of rigid routes and schedules to a fully dynamic, on-demand network that provides an innovative supplement to existing transportation networks. Passengers request rides through a mobile app, and Via’s sophisticated algorithm instantly finds a vehicle that best matches the passenger’s route, allowing for quick and efficient shared trips without detours that take riders out of their way.

The companies will cooperate on the further development of intelligent mobility, including optimizing the design of Mercedes vans vehicles for shared ride use, with Vito Tourer (up to nine seats) and the V-Class (up to eight seats) models being adapted. Beyond developing advanced software and sensors, the partnership will focus on the use of the locally emission-free electric-drive vehicles and autonomous driving systems.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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