A subsidiary of German car giant Daimler has acquired two startupss — RideScout and myTaxi — that make mobile apps focused on transportation choices in cities. The move is part of Daimler’s continued push beyond car manufacturing and into developing technology for urban mobility, as a next generation of city-dwellers is increasingly giving up on car ownership and opting for transportation alternatives from on-demand car services like Uber to car-sharing services like Zipcar.
Daimler owns a mobility-focused subsidiary called moovel (formerly named Daimler Mobility Services), and under the moovel brand has operated a car-sharing network called car2go for a couple years now. Car2go has amassed 850,000 registered members across 26 cities, and the network enables its users to rent Smart Fortwo cars (made by Daimler) by the minute and hour.
Routine users of car2go like that a car can be picked up from one parking spot and left in another. Most other car-sharing services require users to bring the cars back to their original parking spots. The car2go network also includes some electric Smart ForTwos.
Car2go’s North American arm has acquired the transportation app startup RideScout. RideScout, which launched an early version at SXSW last year, has created an app that enables users to discover transportation options from their location, choosing among buses, trains, carpools, car shares, bike shares, walking or just driving and parking.
Daimler’s moovel subsidiary has acquired myTaxi, a taxi-booking app that was launched in 2009 (and entered the U.S. in 2012), and which Daimler already had a 15 percent stake in. myTaxi is made by the German startup Intelligent Apps. As Gigaom’s David Meyer reported, myTaxi entered the U.S. with a trick up its sleeve: an integration between myTaxi and car2go. And now presumably the integration will get even tighter.
Many automakers have cautiously been exploring car sharing, ride sharing and alternative urban mobility. As more people share cars and rides, fewer people will need to own cars, so that cuts into the bottom line of the car-selling business. As urban populations grow and driving and parking in cities becomes less attractive, car companies will need new ways to reach these car-free consumers.
As Gigaom Research analyst Adam Lesser wrote a few years back:
Rather than fight, the automakers are accepting that car sharing is part of a larger cultural shift in which consumers are less enamored with ownership and more enamored with services. And if car sharing truly becomes a widespread cultural phenomenon, the automotive companies best positioned in terms of car sharing will exert greater influence over what model of car consumers drive.