Also in the news this week are VW, Daimler, Lyft, Motivate, Uber, Jump, Audi and Baidu.
Another carmaker turns to alternative mobility services for new revenue streams. Andrew Tolve reports.
Volvo became the latest in a long line of carmakers to launch a standalone mobility brand. Dubbed “M”, Volvo’s new outfit will serve as the command centre for the carmaker’s mobility solutions moving forward, from car-sharing to ride-sharing to e-bikes to you name it. The brand will be built around an app called M that will learn about users’ needs and habits and use that data to provide customised, on-demand access to the right service at the right time. The app will debut in Sweden and the US in 2019, at which point Volvo’s existing Sunfleet car-sharing service will be rolled into the M brand. “The services currently available mainly offer alternatives to a taxi or public transit,” said Bodil Eriksson, CEO of Volvo Car Mobility. “We’re focused on the way people use the cars they own, which sets us apart. We aim to provide a real alternative to that experience. It should enable us to live life on our terms, getting things done and maximising precious time. We see the opportunity to offer a premium experience.”
The launch of M is an admission by yet another carmaker that the writing is on the wall, from China to India, the UK to the US. As more people flock to cities and congestion continues to worsen, the appeal of alternative mobility solutions will rise while the popularity of traditional car ownership will fall. That’s why VW has launched MOIA, BMW and Daimler have formed a joint mobility company and Ford has pinned its future to mobility solutions, not automobiles. Volvo says that, instead of “car owners”, it wants to kindle five million “customer relationships” by 2025 through the new M brand.
In other news, Volkswagen will launch an all-electric, zero-emissions car-sharing service in Germany in 2019 and expand it to major cities in the US, Europe and Asia in 2020. VW envisions the service as one that can meet any need, from a short journey that takes just a few minutes to a week-long road trip around Europe. VW hasn’t announced a name for the service yet but we do know that it will live on the We customer platform, which already includes services like We Deliver and We Park.
Daimlerbecame the first international automaker to get a license to road test Level 4, highly automated vehicles on public roads in Beijing. The license came after months of behind-closed-doors testing with the Chinese government. Mercedes-Benz plans to get its self-driving cars on the road in Beijing immediately. Mercedes is already testing its self-driving cars in Germany and the US.
Lyft acquired Motivate, the largest electric bike-sharing company in the US, for around $250M (£188M). The acquisition comes a week after the company closed a $600M (£451M) round of funding and a couple months after Uber acquired Motivate’s main competitor in the bike-share space, Jump, for $200M (£150M). Lyft plans to combine all of Motivate’s services, from CitiBikes in NYC to Ford GoBike in San Francisco to Capital Bikes in DC into the new Lyft Bikes brand and to offer it as an integrated alternative to traditional Lyft ride-sharing.
Audi released new details about its virtual side mirrors system, which debuted on its concept electric SUV, the e-tron, and is expected to find its way into production vehicles in 2020. The system ditches traditional side mirrors for a pair of high def screens inside the car above the driver and passenger side door handle. The screens connect to rear-view cameras outside the car and allow the driver to switch between different views and to drag with their fingers to adjust the optics. Check out this videofor more.
Finally, self-driving buses are about to hit the streets in Japan. The government has agreed to allow a fleet of mini-buses built by Chinese commercial vehicle manufacturer King Long and powered by Baidu’s open source autonomous driving technologies. Under the agreement, ten Apolong mini buses will be exported to Japan from China in early 2019 and will begin public road tests thereafter.
The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.