How new start-ups are helping to shake up car transportation

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Technology is enabling a wide range of new business models for ground transportation that benefit both consumers and travel businesses. Andrew Hennigan reports

Just a few years ago the options for car travel were usually limited to driving your own vehicle, taking a taxi or renting a car. Today technology is enabling new business models that would have been unthinkable in the age of desktop computers and dial up modems. Uber is the best known, using app technology to allow the company to manage a virtual taxi fleet even though the company owns no cars and employs no drivers.

But Uber is just one of many that is shaking up this segment of the travel. Here are few others.

Cabforce, based in Finland, delivers a new take on the taxi app idea. Rather than working with individual drivers, like Uber, Cabforce works with local taxi providers so that users can book a taxi anywhere. The benefit for the user is that they use the same familiar interface and trusted partner. The benefit for taxi operator partners is that it brings in steady business independent of the lines at the airport or station. Cabforce also works with other travel brands and multimodal travel sites, providing an ‘API’ interface so that they can integrate taxi bookings with other parts of the journey.

“Our distribution strategy relies heavily on partners,” says Cabforce founder Tommi Holmgren. “We believe that we do our job in the best way if the partner brand is strengthened when they can offer better service to their customers. So our service is bookable through airlines and travel agencies but not emphasising our brand as the gateway to the passenger.”

While Cabforce provides an interface that connects consumers with taxi providers, CarTrawler connects airlines, hotels and other travel brands to a wide range of ground transportation providers – car rental, limousine hire, taxis and more. Through CarTrawler, ground transportation bookings can be integrated with other bookings for flights, rail journeys, ridesharing or anything else and all managed through a single interface.

“CarTrawler and Cabforce service a growing customer appetite for seamlessly connected journeys,” says Joe Farinella, CarTrawler’s director of marketing. “As customer expectations extend beyond car rental, we are answering the need for a more comprehensive range or personalised transportation solutions. Whether it’s renting a car in Copenhagen, booking a limousine in Los Angeles or a taxi in Taiwan, customers are demanding the ability to pre-book all their travel needs quickly and easily.”

…customers are demanding the ability to pre-book all their travel needs quickly and easily

Joe Farinella, Director of Marketing, CarTrawler

Blacklane provides a similar service to Cabforce, except that they target the higher end of the market with professionally driven vehicles categorised as ‘business class’, ‘business van’ or ‘first class’. These are not vehicles for the budget traveller. Like Uber, Blacklane does not provide its own vehicles; instead of using drivers’ personal vehicles it aggregates the spare capacity of local partners.

“A seamless ground travel experience requires the entire ecosystem of providers,” says Blacklane CEO and Founder Jens Wohltorf. “This also includes car-sharing, ride-hailing, professional drivers and buses. This wider view benefits both customers and service providers.”

A seamless ground travel experience requires the entire ecosystem of providers

Blacklane CEO and Founder Jens Wohltorf

Wohltorf believes it’s thanks to this broader ecosystem that passengers have more choice. They therefore have better control over budgets and preferences, with companies competing more aggressively with better offers and more innovation.

An edgy approach

BlaBlaCar, the long-distance inter-city ride-sharing company, takes a very different approach to all the others, connecting non-professional drivers already planning a trip with other people who would like to make the same journey. Ride sharing is a useful option for travellers on a tight budget because costs are shared between driver and passenger. It’s also appealing for people committed to the environment and people who simply like to have company on long journeys.

As new models for car transportation proliferate, rather than competing with each other new alternatives actually help each other.

“The inclusion of all players and new concepts grows the size of the overall ground transportation market,” says Wohltorf, “increasing opportunities for everyone.” 

For example, a customer might choose an inter-city car-sharing solution like BlaBlaCar to travel to a suburban address in another metropolitan area and then use local taxis when in that area.

Ground transportation is an important part of the connected traveller’s journey. Don’t miss EyeforTravel’s upcoming Connected Traveller event in London (October 22-23)


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