Weekly Brief: PSA Peugeot Citroe?n and BMW deliver big week for car-sharing

There are many reasons not to buy a car — fuel costs, hellish traffic, high insurance, expensive tickets, pricy upkeep and lack of parking to name a few — but people just don’t seem to care. Last year was a record year for auto industry sales in many markets around the world and 2016 is on pace to deliver another high water mark.

But a growing number of carmakers are betting that the trend won’t last in the face of disruptive technologies that make it easier to hitch rides or share, rather than own, a car. Add PSA Peugeot Citroe?n to the list. Last week the carmaker invested €18M (£14.5) in peer-to-peer car-sharing start-up Koolicar.

Based in France, Koolicar allows users to rent their cars to anyone, anytime, thanks to a plug-in box that enables keyless transactions, geolocation and easy calculation of mileage and lease duration. The company currently has 60,000 registered users in 40 French cities and says it plans to use PSA’s investment to equip up to 30,000 cars with its technology.

In announcing the Koolicar investment, PSA revealed that it wants its mobility services business to generate €300M in yearly revenue by 2021. The company also has a car-sharing project called Multicity in Berlin.

BMW was busy on the car-sharing front as well: the carmaker rolled out a new service called ReachNow in Seattle, Washington. Drivers pay by the minute [49 cents (35p) while the car is in motion, 30 cents while it’s parked] with capped prices for longer journeys. A full day will set you back $110. BMW will provide a fleet of 370 cars, including Mini Coopers, BMW 3 Series saloons and i3s. The company says 10 US cities are in the queue for ReachNow in the near future.

This isn’t BMW’s first gambit with car-sharing in the US; remember DriveNow sputtering out back in 2015 in San Francisco? BMW is leaning on the expertise of mobility software provider RideCell this time around. RideCell just wrapped up a nearly $12M round of funding last week and you can guess who led it: BMW i Ventures.

In other news, Toyota took a page out of Ford’s book and broke off its mobility services into a new standalone company, Toyota Connected Inc (perhaps you’ll recall Ford created Ford Smart Mobility LLC back in March?) Toyota Connected Inc will be based out of Plano, Texas, and will focus on developing predictive, contextual, and intuitive services that help to streamline and humanise the driving experience. These will include telematics services that learn individual habits and preferences, usage-based insurance pricing models that respond to actual driving patterns and connected vehicle networks that can share road condition and traffic information.

Six truck platoons paraded into Rotterdam on 6 April, marking a successful conclusion to the European Truck Platooning Challenge. Daimler, Volvo, IVECO, DAF Trucks, MAN and Scania all provided WiFi-enabled trucks for the challenge, and they travelled from each company’s respective headquarters to Rotterdam without any incident or accident. There were drivers on board each truck but the vision long-term is for drivers to operate only the front truck in each platoon.

Volvo announced that it plans to dispatch 100 self-driving cars to China for an autonomous driving experiment with real customers. The company is still negotiating with the Chinese government about which cities are capable of hosting and exactly when the experiment can start. Volvo has a similar beta test slated for Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2017, and aims to have fully autonomous cars commercialised by 2020.

Finally, TomTom unveiled TomTom City, a new traffic portal that provides users with a granular breakdown of real-time traffic on a city by city basis. The goal is to create a single platform (accessible by computer, tablet or smartphone) that connects traffic authorities, businesses and citizens to jointly manage sustainable and efficient mobility. Initial launch is in 25 cities in 18 countries, including major capitals in Europe, the US, Africa, South America, Australia and Asia.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.

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