BlaBlaCar expands its commuting pilot in France

BlaBlaCar expands its commuting pilot in France

As confirmed by BlaBlaCar at the New Mobility World exhibition at IAA 2017 in Frankfurt, and as reported by FleetEurope, BlaBlaCar is extending its pilot scheme for commuting via rideshare from the French cities of Reims and Toulouse to the Île de France region (Paris and environs).

The service, called BlaBlaLines, is dedicated to medium- to short-distance commutes and operates on a separate platform from BlaBlaCar, which is the leading service for long-distance ridesharing. BlaBlaLines is available as a free download for Android – and now also for iPhone. Île de France could prove fertile terrain for BlaBlaCar, as 43% of the local workforce commutes to work by car, and the average occupancy is just 1.05 persons per vehicle.

Continue reading…

  • BlaBlaCar is developing more in the direction of public transport.
Arval launches carpooling and bikesharing in France

Arval launches carpooling and bikesharing in France

Arval France is expanding its mobility offer by partnering with carpool specialist WayzUp and cycle-sharing specialists Cyclez and SVMS. The lease company’s new offers will be launched on 16 September, the start of the European Mobility Week. The carpooling solution developed with WayzUp is aimed at the commute between home and work. Employees will be able to plan their shared journeys via an app.

As part of the cycle-sharing solution developed with Cyclez and SVMS, Arval will provide electric bicycles and in-house charging stations, and employees can reserve the bikes via an app, without the need for fleet managers to intervene.

Continue reading…

  • Arval offering carpooling and ridesharing in France
Clever and climate-friendly: 20 Toyota Mirai for Hamburg

Clever and climate-friendly: 20 Toyota Mirai for Hamburg

Last week in Hamburg was a milestone for fuel cell mobility. The first 20 (out of a total 35) Toyota Mirai were handed over to the CleverShuttle ridesharing service. This makes it the world’s largest fleet of fuel-cell vehicles run by a single operator.

The CleverShuttle ridesharing service, will now launch in Hamburg (following Berlin, Leipzig and Munich) relying solely on the Toyota Mirai – the first mass-produced fuel cell saloon car. This fleet is therefore powered entirely by hydrogen making it completely free of harmful substances and CO2 on the road.

The target customers are primarily train passengers looking for transport to and from train stations. The service is booked via an app, allowing grouping of passengers with similar routes. This means CleverShuttle can offer affordable prices, up to 40 per cent less than standard taxi prices.

For the second stage, just in time for Oktoberfest, Clevershuttle will also add 15 Toyota Mirai in Munich. This means visitors can travel from the train station to the famous folk festival emission-free.

“Handing over the Mirai is a momentous occasion for me”, explained Tom Fux, managing director and president of Toyota Deutschland GmbH. “We are proud that CleverShuttle chose us to be its trusted partner, relying solely on Toyota’s fuel-cell technology in Hamburg from now on. CleverShuttle has proven that using vehicles on an everyday basis, protecting the climate and keeping the air clean are not mutually exclusive. Instead we have formed an innovative, symbiotic relationship through the combination of clever technology and on-demand ride sharing.”

“We want to bring even more e-mobility to the street. Hydrogen and fuel cells provide a vital alternative and complement purely battery-powered vehicles”, explained Enak Ferlemann, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Transport. “In recent months, the number of public hydrogen fuel stations has nearly doubled. This is an impressive development and is increasing the level of driver trust when it comes to filling up in their area.”

  • Clever and climate-friendly: 20 Toyota Mirai for Hamburg
Renault-Nissan lays out plans for 12 new EVs and ‘robo’ global ride-hailing service

Renault-Nissan lays out plans for 12 new EVs and ‘robo’ global ride-hailing service

The future of cars is electric, and today the alliance that includes Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi laid out plans of how it plans to be one of the leaders in that area as well as autonomous vehicles. Alliance 2022, as the group calls itself, said that it plans to roll out 12 electric cars, and 40 vehicles with autonomous drive technology by 2022. It also wants to become “a global leader in ride-hailing services” that are operated by autonomous “robo” technology.

The plans, announced in Paris at an event this morning, point not just how car companies are doubling down on their plans for new cars and new business models, but how they are banking on economies of scale to make it happen to cut projected costs by €10 billion, the companies said.

And, it seems, pressure from regulators, if not consumer demand.

“Consumers are still not in… they want a bigger range, a lower cost and faster starting time,” admitted Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Alliance 2022, “but with the emissions rules coming in it’s the end of gas. This will be driven not so much by consumer demand but by emission regulations… Between now and 2040 there will be no more diesel and gasoline. This is absolutely a scenario.”

The group said that over 9 million vehicles will be developed using four common platforms, working out to 70% of the volumes produced by the company. “All components will be shared,” Ghosn said.

The company provided few details of how it plans to get to its end points: no information about what tech they would use for these self-driving cars, and whether or how they would work with partners or if they planned to build everything from the ground up. Nor did they give any information about the progress of these common platforms for building electric vehicles — although they noted that they had sold some 500,000 EV’s all in across the group to date — still just a drop in the ocean of the multiple millions sold by the three, and the tens of millions of cars that are sold across the whole industry.

The group was also thin on specifics when it came to its plan for transportation services offered alongside their vehicles. This is a burgeoning area for automakers, who are concerned about the fact that the rise of services like Uber and the rest, and the rising cost of increasingly smart vehicles, will make car ownership a less viable option for the average consumer.

Their answer is to skate to where the puck will be going, so to speak. But while there have been a number of moves from the automotive sector to invest into ride-hailing services (which you can argue may be a route to buying them outright) — GM has Lyft, VW has Gett, Daimler has Via and its own ride-hailing service MyTaxi, as a few examples — the companies in Alliance 2022 have not really made a name for themselves in this area.

But they haven’t been completely out of the game, either. As we revealed earlier this year, Renault-Nissan quietly acquired the assets of a company called Karhoo, a high-profile failure in the ride-hailing market.

Alliance 2022 predicts that total annual sales of their combined businesses will exceed 14 million units, generating revenues expected at $240 billion by the end of 2022.

  • What role will Karhoo play in Renault-Nissan’s ride-sharing plans?
Hamburg and HERE to partner on intelligent mobility

Hamburg and HERE to partner on intelligent mobility

Partners sign Memorandum of Understanding to share data for enabling safe, fluid and emission-reduced traffic flow

The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and HERE Technologies, a global leader in mapping and location services, plan to share traffic-relevant data. The joint goal of the cooperation is to enhance traffic safety and reduce noise and pollutant emissions by improving traffic flows. For this, the partners aim to cooperate in various areas and to start joint projects. Today, both parties have signed an according Memorandum of Understanding in Hamburg.

As part of the partnership Hamburg will provide HERE with access to up-to-date, non-personal data related to public transit, construction sites, major events and parking availability. HERE will integrate this data into the HERE Reality Index(TM), its vast database of location-based information. Based on this data both partners can jointly or separately develop services and provide information to transport users, helping them to take the best decisions and enabling Hamburg to improve its traffic management. In addition, both partners plan to co-operate on enabling automated driving in urban environments. For this HERE can provide HD Live Map, its highly-advanced map that supports autonomous driving.

Frank Horch, Senator for Economy, Transport and und Innovation, said: “The partnership supports our goal to transform Hamburg into a model city for modern mobility – this will make traffic for citizens more efficient, comfortable and environmentally friendly. We want to offer companies that aim to develop intelligent solutions in our city a good test field. At the same time, we will prioritize the protection of personal data in all matters.”

Leon van de Pas, SVP Internet of Things at HERE Technologies, said: “Our advanced location technology and precise digital maps have enormous potential to make mobility more efficient, safer and sustainable for people. Through partnerships with forward-thinking cities like Hamburg, we look forward to demonstrating the positive impact of HERE’s technology on urban life.”

On March 15, 2017, Hamburg submitted the German application to host the ITS World Congress 2021 (ITS – “Intelligent Transport Systems”) to the European ITS organization ERTICO. Hamburg, which has a population of 1.8 million, plans to organize the congress – the world’s largest gathering dedicated to exploring the transportation of the future – together with Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. The application has strong backing beyond the city’s borders, with commitment to support from businesses as well as science and industry associations. The decision on which city is to host congress in 2021 will be announced at the upcoming ITS World Congress in Montreal, Canada, this October.

  • Hamburg and HERE to partner on intelligent mobility.
Porsche SE’s acquisition of PTV AG now closed

Porsche SE’s acquisition of PTV AG now closed

The sale of nearly 100 percent of PTV Planung Transport Verkehr AG (PTV AG), Karlsruhe, to Porsche Automobil Holding SE (Porsche SE), Stuttgart, announced in June, has now been completed.  PTV AG is a leading provider of software for traffic planning and management as well as transport logistics. The transaction was subject to a condition precedent and was closed in early September 2017. The aggregate investment amounts to more than 300 million euro.

Porsche SE intends to continue to operate the business as an independent company. PTV Group’s current financial year (31 March) will be changed to accord with the calendar year.

Vincent Kobesen, CEO of PTV, is pleased to confirm the closing of PTV AG’s acquisition by Porsche SE. “We have thus clearly organized the ownership structure with a view towards the future. This allows us to further expand our market position as the leading provider of software solutions for planning and optimization of traffic and transport logistics throughout the world.”

Further information on both companies can be found on Porsche SE’s homepage at and on the PTV Group’s homepage at

PTV is currently presenting its range of products and solutions at the NEW MOBILITY WORLD at the 67th International IAA Cars Motorshow in hall 3.1, stand no. B27.

  • Porsche completes take-over of PTV.
International Transport Forum and German government sign Summit grant agreement in margins of Frankfurt Motor Show

International Transport Forum and German government sign Summit grant agreement in margins of Frankfurt Motor Show

Alexander Dobrindt, Germany’s Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, and Young Tae Kim, Secretary-General of the International Transport Forum (ITF), signed an agreement on German government funding for the ITF Annual Summit on Thursday, 14 September, in the margins of the Frankfurt Motor Show.

Under the agreement, the German government will contribute EUR 1.2 Million to the cost of holding the Summit. The event will continue to be held in Leipzig, which was recently reselected as the Summit venue as a result of a regularly held competitive tender. The city in eastern Germany has hosted the Summit since 2008, when it was first held.

“Germany has been hosting the world’s leading transport policy event for a decade now. Hand in hand with Germany and our other member country partners, the ITF has developed the Leipzig Summit into a global brand, a must-attend occasion and the world’s premier transport policy event“, said Secretary-General Kim.

“I am very pleased that the government of Germany will continue their support over the next three years. Renewing this valuable partnership will allow us to further develop the Summit and enable the event to continue to innovate, grow and continue to attract participants from around the globe“, Kim added.

The Summit is the world’s largest gathering of transport ministers. Organised by the International Transport Forum at the OECD, it is attended by CEOs, heads of International Organisations and academics and has been called the “Davos of Transport”.

The 2018 Summit on “Transport Safety and Security” will take place from 23 to 25 May 2018 at the Conference Centre Leipzig (CCL) in Leipzig, Germany.

  • ITF stays in Leipzig for its summit in 2018.
Volvo acquires car valet startup Luxe to boost its digital services business

Volvo acquires car valet startup Luxe to boost its digital services business

After a pivot and months of speculation about the future of car valet and concierge startup Luxe, the company has finally found a home. Today, automaker Volvo Cars announced that it is acquiring the startup’s platform, technology, key staff and other assets, which it will use to put some fuel into its own digital services strategy.

The terms of the acquisition are not being disclosed, but we are trying to find out. The startup, according to Pitchbook, had previously been valued around at least $140 million post-money in its last round of funding, which came from Hertz in 2016 (on a $110 million pre-money valuation, according to our report). One source close to the deal tells us that the terms here were closely guarded, and that the assumption at this point is that it was ‘pennies on the dollar’ based on the last valuation.

Luxe’s service had allowed drivers to drop off their car at any point in a city where services are offered, whereupon a professional valet would find a parking spot for the vehicle, and refuel and clean the car if requested.

As part of the acquisition, Luxe’s CEO and co-founder Curtis Lee is becoming VP of digital for Volvo Cars. “The entire team is coming over including Craig (Martin, co-founder of Luxe),” Lee wrote in an email to TechCrunch. “Craig will be continue to lead our engineering team.”

The move comes at a time when automakers around the world are investing into and buying assets of car-focused tech startups to help propel them into the next generation of car ownership, and cars themselves. Other developments have included sizeable investments in transportation-on-demand startups, acquisitions of self-driving technology and consortiums of car makers cobbling together to buy large mapping and navigation providers.

Volvo — originally a Swedish car maker, before getting acquired by Ford in 1999, and then subsequently by Geely Holding in 2010 — itself has also been a notable player in this evolution: the company in July announced that all of its cars will either electric or hybrid by 2019. A month later, in August, the first rumors began to surface noting that Volvo was interested in buying Luxe.

Volvo already has an operation in Silicon Valley, and Luxe’s team will join that group, the company said.

“Our vision is a future in which technology simplifies life so you never have to stop at a petrol station, go to a car wash or even take your car in for service ever again. The acquisition of Luxe is a step towards realising that ambition. I look forward to working closely with the highly talented team at Luxe who created its advanced technology from the ground up,” said Atif Rafiq, Chief Digital Officer at Volvo Cars, in a statement.

Volvo’s vehicles address various segments in the car-making business — from delivery trucks through to high-end luxury vehicles, and this acquisition sounds like it’s firmly to help develop services for the latter. It plans to offer pick-up and drop-off services; and it will be using the tech for other services, too. “The technology behind Luxe provides the company with advanced algorithms in the areas of routing, logistics planning and arrival time prediction,” the company said.

“As more and more of our cars are connected, the availability of digital services becomes a critical part of the process of selecting a new car. Simplification of experience and placing control directly into the hands of the consumer is what today’s technologies enable, and what defines our vision in the digital space,” said Mr Rafiq.

For Luxe, this is a final destination after months of question marks about the four-year-old company, which is operational across some (but not all) major cities in the U.S., including San Francisco, New York and Chicago. The company had raised over $75 million in funding, with backers including Hertz, GV and Foundation Capital, as well as a lot of individual investors.

  • Volvo acquires car valet startup Luxe.
We need to stop pretending that the autonomous car is imminent: Tap the brakes!

We need to stop pretending that the autonomous car is imminent: Tap the brakes!

It’s time to face some challenging realities when it comes to autonomous cars. While consensus seems to imply that the future of driving is nearly upon us, even a relatively cursory check of some of the necessary enablers for truly autonomous automobiles would suggest otherwise.

From security concerns to high costs to missing infrastructure to car design complexity to uncertain legal expectations and more, there are a host of legitimate concerns that, in some cases, by themselves represent a serious challenge to the near-term release of truly independent vehicles. Taken together, however, they strongly suggest a much longer timeline for adoption than many have been led to believe.

Let’s start with some basics. The general expectation is that autonomy is intrinsically linked to vehicle electrification. The big problem here is that very few consumers are buying or planning to buy electric vehicles. Sure, we can point to the hundreds of thousands of preorders for Tesla’s Model 3, but even if they all get delivered over the next two years, they will represent a tiny single-digit percentage of total U.S. auto sales.

Throw in all the other electric vehicles from other carmakers, and the number still remains well below 5 percent. Why? In part because U.S. consumers are generally very concerned about getting stranded if the batteries run out. Rightly or wrongly, until we see nearly as many charging stations as we have gas stations, there will be reluctance on the part of car buyers to give up their gas-powered vehicles. (Of course, throw in the fact that there are multiple electric-car charging standards, and that charging “fill-ups” are measured in tens of minutes — or even hours — and you start to get a sense of the problem.) “Until we see nearly as many charging stations as we have gas stations, there will be reluctance on the part of car buyers to give up their gas-powered vehicles.”

We could start to see more interest in electric vehicles as second cars that are used primarily for short errand trips around town, but then we run into pricing concerns because few people want to spend more for a second car than their primary vehicle. Plus, the costs and potential impact on the electric grid as consumers start to install in-garage charging systems — yet another expense associated with electric cars — are potential concerns.

Even if we get past the electric car issues — or if, as I suspect, we start to see more autonomous driving features in hybrid or even gas-powered vehicles — plenty of other obstacles remain.

Foremost among these are security issues — at many levels. First, there is the physical security and safety of both autonomous vehicle occupants and the other people who interact with autonomous vehicles. While it’s clear that great advances in autonomous driving algorithms have been made, it’s also obvious that there are still concerns about how “ready” this technology currently is. The fact that several engineers from Tesla’s AutoPilot program actually went so far as to leave the company, in part because of their concerns about the potential safety concerns of current implementations, speaks volumes about the current state of affairs in autonomous driving systems.

Beyond physical safety are the cybersecurity concerns. As has been discussed by many before, enormous potential threats are opened when the connectivity necessary to build and run autonomous cars is put into place. The notion of hacking when it comes to automobiles moves from an annoyance to a life-threatening concern.

Many companies are currently doing excellent work to try to combat or prevent these kinds of issues. However, their work is made significantly more difficult by the fact that modern car designs and internal architectures are both extraordinarily complex — Rube Goldberg-like is not far from the truth — and, in some instances, based on old, limited standards that were never intended to support today’s computing and connectivity requirements.

The recent discovery that the CANbus (which is an absolutely essential part of how a car’s various systems components are linked together) is fundamentally broken when it comes to preventing some modern types of digital threats, for example, is just the latest in the long line of concerns about current car architectures. The truth is, we’re way overdue for an entirely new approach to car design — especially for autonomous cars — but the auto industry’s supply chain, infrastructure and entire way of working is stacked strongly against these kinds of necessary major changes happening anytime soon.

Continue reading:

  • Autonomous cars – not for tomorrow, but the day-after?
HPE’s Meg Whitman on Uber CEO gig: ‘It wasn’t the right thing’

HPE’s Meg Whitman on Uber CEO gig: ‘It wasn’t the right thing’

During an HPE earnings call, CEO Meg Whitman offered her first extensive remarks on that whole Uber CEO job search thing, promising investors that “I actually am not going anywhere.”

Whitman made the remarks after HPE reported earnings that were not god-awful. After a presentation by executives, Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein Research finally voiced the question we were all dying for somebody to ask: “Meg, I was wondering if you could maybe clear the air on your commitment to Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. There is obviously a lot of press speculation about you are potentially accepting a role at Uber as CEO. You had made statements saying that you are remaining at HPE. I was wondering if you could just clear the air on the apparent reporting discrepancies in your statements and where … you stand in terms of your commitment to HPE? Thank you.”

To recap: After Uber tossed co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick out the window, Whitman was reportedly a candidate. Then, following a mess of leaks from the board, Whitman very publicly took herself out of the running with a mini-tweetstorm.

End of story….not!

During the final weekend, Whitman re-emerged as the front runner, according to various reports. But apparently some of her demands, including putting Kalanick in a corner, soured some board members on her. Nobody puts Travis in a corner. And so the board picked that Expedia dude that you’d never heard of until he was named Uber CEO. Dara something, I think.

So, back to Whitman and her on-again, off-again candidacy. Whitman is now in year six of her five-year turnaround plan for HPE, which included her move to split the original Hewlett-Packard in twain. Perhaps it might not be surprising that the former eBay CEO is getting a bit bored with it all and her eye has started to wander.

But Whitman says no, and that this time she really means it!

Here are her full remarks from a transcript:

“Yes, sure. There has been some press. So listen, I thought, I was called in very late in the Uber search, and I thought it was a very interesting business model to me. It’s actually quite similar to eBay in many ways. It’s very disruptive, that relies on a community of drivers, just like eBay relies on a community of sellers. And the growth prospects reminded me of eBay in its early days. And, as you know, I am also an investor in Uber, and — but, in the end, that wasn’t the right thing.”

Continue reading:

  • Meg Whitman stays at HPE – for now.