Large vans may not be the staples of suburban family garages, but the are experiencing a resurgence thanks to new ride-sharing platforms.
Via announced Monday a $50 million investment and joint-venture agreement with Daimler to launch on-demand shuttle services across Europe, as well as to license Via’s on-demand shuttle operating system to European transit authorities and municipalities, the mobility company said in a news release.
"We are delighted to have the Daimler Group on board as an investor and strategic partner,” said Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via. “Combining Via’s technology with the exceptional design and engineering of Mercedes-Benz Vans is ideal for our vision of offering efficient, affordable, sustainable, and convenient shared rides everywhere.”
Launched in 2013 in New York City, Via offers rides in large vehicles to multiple riders and allows its on-demand transit platform to be licensed to other users. Now offered in Chicago and Washington DC, as well, Via says it’s giving more than 1 million rides per month now.
London will be the first market for the joint Via-Daimler on-demand shuttle service due to launch by the end of this year, with other European cities joining shortly thereafter.
Daimler adds Via to its list of tie-ups with transportation companies such as Uber, as well as its own Car2Go rental service.
The van-sharing market is heating up. Ford has its Chariot service in some U.S. cities as another part of its mobility efforts. The U.S.-based automaker launched Chariot in San Francisco in 2014, but has since expanded it to Austin, Seattle and New York – its biggest test yet.
And, of course, better-known names in ridesharing like Uber and Lyft also have their own ways to crowdsource transportation in major cities. But Via appears to be serious about carving out a niche of its own in Europe and with a major automaker ally.