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.”
Via says it’s providing more than 1 million rides a month now
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.