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Daimler, the German-based manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, recently invested in Via Transportation, Inc. and also signed a joint venture agreement with the company. Via is a ride-sharing transportation network in direct competition with Uber. They are strictly into multiple passengers, with the bold idea of picking up various passengers along a common route. It is cost effective and efficient.

So far, it raised a total of $387 million in five rounds. Currently, the company has a valuation of around $750 million.

Via is licensing their technology to transit systems, enabling them to compete against ride-sharing apps. Uber has a similar service called uberPOOL. In these carpooling apps, passengers use the app to signify their pickup point for a particular destination.

One problem for ride sharing utilities is that they sometimes divert the route far afield to pick up and drop off a second passenger. The result is longer travel times as the ride meanders around picking up people here and there on its route. The new traffic aids and navigation apps should allow for optimized ride shares, as more people use them allowing for greater density in given areas, and the technology develops to make routes more efficient. The downside of sharing a ride is longer travel time, the upside is cheaper fares.

uberPOOL works by asking passengers to go to an assigned pickup location – a common waiting area where the passengers and vans meet up. This reduces the passenger pickup time as the van does not have to stop multiple times or drive farther just to pick up individual passengers.

Mercedes-Benz invested $50 million in funding for Via, with the latest round raising $250 million for the startup. So far, it raised a total of $387 million in five rounds. Currently, the company has a valuation of around $750 million. Other investors include 83North, C4 Ventures, Ervington Investments, Expansion Venture Capital, Hearst Ventures, Kapor Capital, Lior Prosor, Pitango, Planven, Poalim, and RiverPark.

As part of the joint venture, the German car maker will be supplying Via with the nine-seat Vito Tourer and the eight-seat V-Class passenger vans.

Via has a Multi-City Presence

Via already runs their service in New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Their licensing program allows bus services and other transport organizations to offer their own ride-sharing services.

Mercedes Benz Headquarters

Via also plans to launch their service in London, England within the year. In the recent absence of Uber in the city, Citymapper will be Via’s main competitor there as it is already offering a similar service.

At the same time, Via already has a partnership with bus operator Arriva; their app ArrivaClick is a ride sharing utility operating in Sittingbourne, England. Daimler Benz, the parent of Mercedes, also acquired MyTaxi, which is Europe’s largest taxi app.

With Daimler’s continuing investments in transport apps, it stands to reason that they are trying to find a niche for their vehicles. This is a horizontal reach for the German car giant. With their vans in use by Via in the United States, this can be a bold marketing opportunity as well. With Via’s “on-demand shuttle operating system,” there would be efficiencies of scale for operating in these major cities.

Part of the $50 million investment includes Daimler bringing the app to Europe. The car maker will also be configuring their vans to better fit Via’s purposes. Ride sharing is a bold idea that is gaining traction worldwide. As the industry matures, various niche markets are arising. Mercedes Benz is taking bold action to carve out a place in the growing sector.

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