German startup Door2Door wants to become the Uber of public transportation by disrupting government-backed mobility solutions much like the ride-hailing startup affected the taxi industry. On Friday, the company launched a free carpooling service in partnership with the Allgemeine Deutsche Automobil-Club, the largest auto club in Germany. The solution is being made available to Berlin residents for the following three months, with ADAC funding the initiative and contributing to the project with its vehicle fleet, whereas Door2Door is bringing its software expertise and algorithms to the program. The move isn't meant to be a pilot run for a product that will be advertised to governments but a practical way to start a discussion on the future of public transportation, the startup says.
While the smart city movement is already gaining significant traction, the issue of urban transportation still hasn't been addressed to a sufficient degree, with traffic congestion and resource wasting being some of its most palpable effects. Door2Door suggests publicly funded carpooling as a viable alternative and has already developed a software framework for managing vehicle fleets used for such purposes. The reason why the project is now being pitched as a public transportation solution and not a private one is because it lacks a monetization component and hence cannot be supported indefinitely if the service is provided to people free of charge. While charging a nominal fee to every user could theoretically be enough to keep it operational, the true value of publicly funded carpooling solutions lies in the countless hours of commute time and other resources saved by having fewer vehicles on the road, Door2Door indicates.
The trial program that's running in Berlin will transport passengers every Friday and Saturday afternoon until late April and will encompass 25 shuttles that users will be able to summon using a dedicated app for Android and iOS devices. Ultimately, the goal of the initiative is to prove the future of public transportation isn't too dissimilar to that of private mobility as both solutions are meant to be "shared, dynamic, and on-demand," the startup says. Beyond the idea of government-funded carpooling services, other innovators are envisioning even more ambitious platforms such as on-demand cities.