An interview with Ridecell’s Jason Walton, Director of Product Marketing, and Haley Burns, Senior Product Manager for Car Sharing. 

The Business of Mobility is a series of articles penned by business leaders in sustainable mobility.  

Ridecell is an American startup (now a global scaleup) founded in 2009. According to their website: “Ridecell builds the technologies and solutions that unlock the power of fleets and fleet management systems.” They offer SaaS solutions to a range of clients including GIG Car Share in the US, Arval mobility solutions in Europe, and KINTO (Toyota Sweden). Ridecell, who employs around 200 people, is headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Paris, Berlin and India.  

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Autonomy: Your founder Aarjav Trivedi started Ridecell in 2009 as a ridehailing app; is that right?

Jason: Yes, that’s why he called it ‘Ridecell’, as in get a “ride” with your “cell” phone. At Georgia Tech, he built a demand-response mobility service. But then over those first few years he shifted from trying to compete with Uber, to providing an end-to-end mobility platform for fleets and mobility operators. 

Haley: It’s about applying the latest in IoT and automation to help modernize fleets. 

Autonomy: What sort of fleets?

Haley: We segment clients into five areas: logistics (integrating delivery and service fleets); rental; motorpool (corporate and government fleets); shared; and security, which involves immobilization and vehicle recovery. 

Autonomy: I see you have GIG Car Share on your books, America’s largest free-floating car share company. 

Haley: Yes, that’s an important story for us. We add a layer of frictionless automation and efficiency to their operations. Our platform helps with the customer interface (e.g. reservations, keyless entry and finding parking) as well as operational issues like services, cleaning and security. (See here.) 

Autonomy: So, you’re involved in both customer experience and operational efficiency?

Jason: Yes, plus there’s a third area, fleet utilization, which is about crunching all the data to get the most out of your fleet.  

Autonomy: Are you able to offer all this functionality with in-house software engineering? 

Jason: In terms of things like vehicle telematics, we’re hardware agnostic. In some ways you could say we’re also software agnostic. We don’t lock clients into sub-optimal services. Our fleet platforms are partner-friendly, with flexible APIs, and we find the best partners to build the best fleet ecosystem.  

Haley: For example, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel for something like face recognition, when we can partner with Jumio, who are world leaders in identity verification. And we work with Denso to help us manage data, automate workflows and on vehicle security. 

Autonomy: I see you also have Geotab as a strategic partner; I would imagine they are potentially a competitor to you? 

Jason: Geotab is an excellent channel partner for Ridecell. It’s actually a symbiotic partnership where the Ridecell Motorpool offering requires telematics hardware for digital lock and unlock, and the Geotab keyless telematics needs a complete reservation and motor pool management solution which Ridecell offers.

Autonomy: The cheaper and easier it becomes to share vehicles, the more we can reduce single car ownership, which is something Autonomy cares about.

Haley: Absolutely. We’ll work with whomever to optimize our platform and give fleets the best possible solutions in reducing costs and improving convenience. 

Jason: By our studies the MaaS business will be worth $1 trillion by 2030, and by then mobility services will be 50% cheaper than owning a car. 

Autonomy: I get that you’re one-stop-shop for fleet managers wanting to reduce costs and improve services, but what would you say is your secret sauce? 

Haley: Automation is key. We’re pushing the envelope on automating out the hassle of running a fleet. Within our data collecting, we’ll find opportunities to trigger actions that are automatable. Things like service, maintenance and cleaning intervals can all be automated, even linking in with third parties. Really it’s about going beyond your typical fleet automation and solving issues automatically, in real time, without a human needing to get involved. 

Autonomy: We’re seeing a lot of disruption in the industry and particularly disruption of single car ownership. How should OEMs respond? 

Haley: For a start, they should switch to EVs (electric vehicles) and they should help cities and national governments with charging infrastructure. EVs are something of a passion of mine. And I think fleet management fits well with the switch to EVs. For example, we’re helping Gig Car Share in terms of monitoring battery levels and locating charge stations. Today, EVs are not as convenient as ICEs. Our fleet software is changing this, helping fleet managers create a seamless experience for EV users. 

Autonomy: And I see that you’re working with KINTO, Toyota’s car sharing offer. 

Jason: Yes, in August 2020 Ridecell was selected by Toyota Sweden to provide the software platform for their shared mobility offering, KINTO Share, who have a range of solutions: subscriptions, car sharing, corporate carpooling, and multimodality MaaS 

Autonomy: Are you able to give them a meta-perspective across their operations to help them cross-pollinate efficiencies

Jason: Yes. New mobility is all about sweating assets. We are dedicated to helping mobility companies become more profitable. Once a client is on our platform, we can look at the data and suggest all sorts of ways to optimize the fleet, optimize operations and improve service to customers.  

Autonomy: Where’s this industry headed? 

Haley: IoT and automation are changing everything. Things will get interesting when owning a car costs a few times more than sharing one. The pressure to reach net zero emissions is mounting. So we must expand the utility of our vehicles, many of which sit idle 95% of the time. What manufacturer wouldn’t want their product to be used at full potential? 

Networked systems of objects (IoT) and automation are powering new mobility. This is great for commuters and kinder on the planet.