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Daimler, parent of Mercedes-Benz, just created a new company to help you take more public transit

Daimler, parent of Mercedes-Benz, just created a new company to help you take more public transit


Presenting Moovel North America

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A pair of transportation technology companies from two of the funkiest cities in the US are merging to form Moovel North America, a new company that will provide mobile ticketing technology to cities and software kits to developers to integrate transportation options. Under the merger, Portland's GlobeSherpa will become Moovel Transit and Austin's RideScout will be renamed RideTap. Both will be operated by Moovel Group, which is owned by German automaker Daimler.

GlobeSherpa + RideScout = moovel North America

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that Daimler, which owns both Mercedes-Benz and car-sharing company Car2Go, is further extending its reach into non-traditional realms, like software and public transit. GlobeSherpa, which provides mobile ticketing for users of Portland's TriMet public transit system, was acquired by RideScout last year, but the two operated as separate entities. Now both will be consolidated and rebranded under the ownership of Moovel NA.

Moovel Transit (formerly GlobeSherpa) will contract with cities to create mobile ticketing and fare payment products for public transit systems. That includes integrating other transportation options, like ride-sharing and car-sharing, into ticketing apps to help solve the dreaded "first / last mile challenge," illustrated by the distance between a person's home and the nearest transit hub. The platform already operates in 11 US cities, including Chicago, Portland, and San Francisco.

"remove the silos that people face in getting around"

RideTap (formerly RideScout) is a software development kit available for developers who want to deep link to car, bike, and ride-sharing services in their apps. For example, TriMet users in Portland will able to hail a Lyft car through the transit service's app thanks to RideTap's software integration.

The merger of the two firms will "remove the silos that people face in getting around the cities where they live," said Nat Parker, CEO of Moovel NA. "These are two distinct products, but they compliment each other by basically creating platform level solutions for app developers to utilize."

It stands to reason that Daimler's own services like Car2Go, or those firms that Daimler is partnering with like Lyft, will get top billing in these integration efforts, but Parker said Moovel NA will also include competing services (like Uber and ZipCar) in order to provide a full suite of options for customers.

"converting from a car manufacturer to a mobility company"

Parker said the broader goal of his business is to get more people to use public transit, which is an odd position for someone who works for a company that's owned by one of the world's largest auto manufacturers. To that point, Jörg Lamparter, a former sales manager for Mercedes-Benz who is now the CEO of Moovel Group, said Daimler is "in the process of converting from a car manufacturer to a mobility company."

That may sound familiar if you've been following car news for the last year or so. A host of traditional automobile companies are in the midst of trying to rebrand themselves as software companies or mobility companies — basically anything other than an automaker. Ford just created its own Silicon Valley-based tech startup. General Motors is teaming up with Lyft to build a fleet of on-demand, self-driving cars. BMW and Jaguar are dipping their toes in car-sharing.

Daimler has been ahead of the curve with Car2Go, which launched in 2008 and is available in 28 European and North American cities. The Stuttgart-based company is also involved in a consortium of automakers that recently acquired Here, a self-driving mapping company. Lamparter said most people don't rely exclusively on cars to get around, and car makers like Daimler are starting to recognize that. "It is the customer's choice to choose their method of transportation," he said. "The car is one of them, of course, but it's not the only one any more."