Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) and ViaVan, a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via: Arriving right on cue - BVG, Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via bring on-demand ridesharing to Berlin
Berlin. Berlin's local public transport system is considered one of the best in the world – reliable, comfortable, safe and environmentally friendly. In future, it will also adapt on an individual basis to the routes requested by its passengers: with a supplementary local public transport service provided on-demand. Two strong partners with complementary areas of competence, Berlin's local transport operator Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) and ViaVan, a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via, have now joined forces to form a research and development collaboration to work on this concept.
The pilot project that is scheduled to start in the Spring of 2018 will offer an on-demand ridesharing service involving an initial fleet of 50 state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the eastern part of inner-city Berlin, in other words in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg districts. A very straight-forward process will involve passengers using an app to call a local public transport vehicle at short notice to an agreed point. A large proportion of BVG's existing stops, as well as additional virtual stopping points, for example at junctions, will be built into the virtual network of possible stops for the new on-demand shuttle service. All in all, the aim is to expand the fleet over the course of the project to 300 vehicles.
Of particular note here is that this project in Berlin represents the first time that close integration of ridesharing and local public transport has been offered on such a wide scale. It will involve a range of different requested routes being packaged together. Each journey starts and ends at a virtual stop and is shared with other passengers. The sophisticated algorithms created by the software experts from Via allow the system to calculate very efficiently in real time which journeys can practicably be packaged together without too many diversions. The environment, local residents and passengers all benefit from the arrangement, as it means that there will be far less traffic on Berlin's streets and that attractive fares can be offered – it all amounts, in fact, to a new form of local public transport.
The digital tariff that has been specially developed for this concept is made up of a basic rate plus a distance-based supplement, so pricing the service somewhere between the classic rate for local public transport and a taxi fare. Booking the journey by app ensures that the price that will ultimately be charged is known when the booking is made and does not then change. If one person books a journey for several passengers together, a further discount becomes applicable.
The fleet is provided by the vehicle experts from Mercedes-Benz and will initially involve state-of-the-art Vito and V-Class vans (Euro 6) with up to eight seats, plus all-electric Mercedes B-Class B250e cars with four seats. From next summer, the fleet will be enhanced by the arrival of the new, all-electric eVito Tourer, which will go into use in Berlin as the very first locally emission-free minibus operating anywhere in the world. The vehicles will also genuinely stand out in Berlin's street scene, as their liveries will feature prominently the familiar BVG seat upholstery design, while they will also carry large yellow BVG hearts and the ViaVan logo.
Over the course of the collaboration, which has initially been agreed for a period of around two years, the aim is to add the ability to request a vehicle with disabled access. What is currently being tested is not just how the concept copes with the capital city's challenging traffic conditions, but also how it is accepted by the residents of Berlin. Subsequent expansion of the system to further areas of Berlin might be possible.
The BVG has applied for approval of the new transport proposal with reference to the experimental clause of Germany's Passenger Transportation Act.
Statements relating to the project
Regine Guenther, Senator for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection in Berlin:
"Berlin is breaking new ground with the planned pilot project. I welcome the fact that the BVG offers an additional opportunity to be more comfortable and environmentally friendly. The target group are car drivers and public transport users similarly: car drivers can transfer to the on-call bus for individual journeys. Public transport users can use the "minibus on order" to test new options for getting to their destination more comfortably. The project will show how the citizens of Berlin accept and use this offer. With the trial operation we gain important experience, if and how ridesharing can complement the public transport. "
Ramona Pop, Senator for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises in Berlin and Chair of the Supervisory Board of BVG:
"The city is growing and with it the volume of traffic. We want to make mobility for the future more environmentally friendly, efficient and smarter. In addition to the electrification of the BVG fleets, we rely on innovative mobility concepts that increase the attractiveness of public transport and make it easier for more people to change. I am delighted that the BVG, together with strong partners, is taking an important step into the new, connected world of mobility and is testing innovative measures for a modern city."
Dr Sigrid Nikutta, Chair of the Management Board and Board Member for Operations at Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG):
"With ten subway, 22 tram, over 150 bus lines and six ferries, we already have a first-class mobility offering with countless possible combinations for our passengers. Together with ViaVan we now want to go a step further and offer an individual public "on-demand" transport. Thanks to Ridesharing, one thing remains the same: we bundle journeys and this provide less traffic, less noise and fewer emissions in our city - for a greener, more livable Berlin."
Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, Daimler AG:
"We are delighted to have found ideal partners for the launch of ViaVan in Germany in the form of Berlin and the BVG. Berlin's challenging traffic provides us with the perfect setting in which to test this new form of mobility. We are confident that this new joint service will quickly become established, and that it represents the perfect complement to existing local public transport in the capital. Shared mobility in our vans makes a major contribution to reducing city traffic, while at the same time giving people access to a sustainable form of mobility."
Dr Henrik Haenecke, Board Member for Finances, Digitalisation and Distribution at Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG):
"Sharing a ride is part of our DNA. Driving multiple passengers together from stop to stop is a core competence for us as a local transport company. We want to use this expertise to test ride sharing via app as part of public transport. Together with ViaVan, we will integrate a completely new range of mobility services in Berlin's public transport system. We want to show that a public transport company can work together with a start-up to develop new mobility services."
Chris Snyder, CEO, ViaVan:
"Via’s technology is redefining mobility across the globe. We are thrilled to be partnering with BVG on this bold new project to introduce the Via model of dynamically routed on-demand shared rides to Berlin on a mass scale. The new service is a perfect complement to traditional public transit solutions, offering a whole new way of getting around the city."
About the project partners
Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG)
Berlin's public transport company, the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), is the engine that moves Berlin, and has been doing so for almost 90 years. With its dense network of lines, state-of-the-art vehicles and efficient service, Germany's largest municipal transport authority is also today symbolic of the good quality of life available in the capital and surrounding area. The network density and quality of the local transport system in Berlin also rank high in an international comparison. The BVG transport network is made up of ten underground railway lines (U-Bahn), 22 tram lines and more than 150 bus lines, as well as six ferries, and provides mobility around the clock, 365 days a year. The 14,400 employees of the BVG corporation operate a fleet of around 3,000 vehicles, serving more than 3.5 million inhabitants across a catchment area that covers some 1,000 square kilometres. More than a billion passengers use the buses and rail-ways operated by the BVG every year.
ViaVan is a leading provider of innovative on-demand shared transit services in Europe. ViaVan was founded in 2017 as a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via. Working closely with cities and public transit operators, ViaVan powers dynamic shared mobility services that complement existing transportation infrastructure. Through their partnership, Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via are also collaborating on the development of advanced mobility solutions, from sensor technology, to electric vehicle fleet management, to autonomous driving.
Mercedes-Benz Vans is a global full-line supplier for the van sector and related services.
The division's product portfolio in the commercial segment comprises the large-size van Sprinter, the mid-size van Vito (known as »Metris« in the USA) as well as the Citan urban delivery van. In the private-customer segment, Mercedes-Benz Vans is represented with the V-Class MPV and the Marco Polo range of camper vans and recreational vehicles. Since late 2017 Mercedes-Benz Vans has also been represented in the mid-size pickup segment with the X-Class model.
The division has production facilities spread over four continents: in Germany, Spain, the USA, Argentina, China and Russia. On the Chinese market, Mercedes-Benz Vans has a presence through the joint venture company Fujian Benz Automotive Co., Ltd. The manufacture of Citan and X-Class models forms part of the strategic alliance with Renault-Nissan. In Russia, the companies GAZ and YaMZ produce the Sprinter Classic on behalf of Mercedes-Benz Vans.
We are continuing to tap into new growth potential as part of our divisional strategy »Mercedes-Benz Vans goes global«. Our future initiative adVANce is also part of this process, allowing us to pursue our objective of developing new business models. In so doing, Mercedes-Benz Vans is transforming itself from a manufacturer of globally successful vans to a supplier of holistic system solutions for the transport of goods and the conveyance of people - making it a pioneer in the industry.
Via is re-engineering public transit, from a regulated system of rigid routes and schedules to a fully dynamic, on-demand network. Via’s mobile app connects multiple passengers who are headed the same way, allowing riders to seamlessly share a premium vehicle. First launched in New York City in September 2013, the Via platform currently operates in New York City, Chicago, and Washington DC, has provided more than twenty million rides, and is growing rapidly. Via also licenses its revolutionary on-demand transit technology to transportation players globally. For more information, visit www.ridewithvia.com.