July 21, 2017

Startups in Germany are racing their Silicon Valley rivals to reinvent the bus



StarTran bus
By Hanyou23 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The “shared mobility” industry is a confusing tangle of automakers and tech companies developing services for car-sharing, car-pooling, and ride-hailing at the tap of an app. Passenger cars have been the focus in recent years, but now the humble bus is up for re-imagining as well.

Two startups in Berlin are developing on-demand shuttle buses, equipped with AI that figures out where people are and where they want to go, tracing algorithmically optimized routes around town. One is owned by Volkswagen and will deploy fleets of VW vans, while the other is building an AI-powered platform for urban planners to link roving shuttles into local transport networks.

Volkswagen’s move into the field is via the Berlin-based startup Moia, which launched at TechCrunch Disrupt in December last year. It is planning to roll out electric shuttles in Hamburg in 2018, making a bet on an urban future where hundreds of six-person vehicles roam the streets, scooping up people who are heading in roughly the same direction and dropping them off at different points along the way.

“That’s where we think we can have the maximum impact out of all those shared concepts right now, if we bring something onto the street which is […]

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