What happens when you put random strangers together in a van? Something good judging from the number of transportation startups with a special focus on shuttles and ridesharing springing up across Germany.
In 2016, the Danish startup Spiri announced plans to launch their own version in the capital, joining five active ridesharing services. What makes Spiri different from most ridesharing services is the plan to design their own electric vehicles.
Volkswagen’s new subsidiary, Moia, plans to do something similar: This year they will offer users rides in their specially-designed mini buses, according to Moia’s CEO Ole Harms (German).
Local competition includes Allygator Shuttle, a venture belonging to the Berlin-based startup Door2Door. Their motto is “affordable like a bus, comfortable like a limousine.” The service, which launched in 2016, has a fleet of 20 that only runs on weekends and serves a small subset of the Berlin population.
Tom Kirschbaum, Door2Door founder and COO, is not worried about the increase in competition: “We are going to see more players in the market for sure, but I am confident with our solution.” The extra competition validates that “mobility is undergoing a massive change and the demand for personalised solutions is continuously increasing.”
Kirschbaum argues that public transportation works “OK-ish,” but does not “adapt to customers’ needs.” Taxis, on the other hand, are inefficient, usually carrying one person at a time. The Allygator shuttle operates in that middle ground, liberating people without their own method of transportation from ”set timetables.”
He hopes that the Allygator software will somehow be incorporated into Berlin’s public transportation service, the Berliner Verkehrsbetrieb (BVG), rather than replace it. Allygator rides currently cost five cents for every kilometre per passenger, but that will change if the mobility company decides to permanently launch the service.
“We were stunned by how positive people respond to having someone else in the vehicle,” says Kirschbaum. “It is a very social thing. People actually have fun, talk a lot and sometimes find a new friend.”
Also fighting for space on Berlin’s street is Berlin Shuttle (German), which was launched in 2013, and CleverShuttle, founded in 2014. CleverShuttle, which is active in Munich and Leipzig, recently announced plans to expand operating times and areas in 2017 – Frankfurt and Hamburg are next on the startup’s list.
According to CleverShuttle, their vehicles are CO2 neutral, running on 100 per cent renewable energy.
Slightly different from the aforementioned shuttles is Wunder, a Hamburg-based startup, that matches users with empty seats in non-professional drivers’ cars. Established in 2013, this urban carpooling company lets “Wunder drivers share the empty seats in their cars to save on gas money,” while reducing the number of cars on the road.
Plus, the startup argues, carpooling with Wunder introduces users to people who, “live and work close,” strengthening communities and growing networks. A real win-win, unless you get stuck with a reckless driver. In order to ensure that safety comes first, the company allows users, who are the “best judge,” rate drivers via the app. Flinc, established in 2008, is another startup that pairs drivers with people needing rides.
Although the idea is to increase efficiency and improve city traffic, it is worth noting that most of these startups put additional vehicles on the road. It seems counter intuitive, even if multiple people ride in these vehicles and they use clean energy.
If the idea of being driven by a random stranger bothers you or the idea of making small talk with other riders is unappealing, there are a number of up-and-coming taxi startups to help you get around: Blacklane, MyTaxi, Taxilo.
But in a world where delivery reigns king and ‘Netflix and Chill’ is a favourite pastime, who really needs – or wants – to leave the house anyway?
Reporting was contributed by Marco Weimer.