A new initiative in the ride-sharing domain was launched yesterday in Brussels. Named Kowo, it made something of a name for itself from the very start, and for two reasons. Firstly, it was held in the premises of the Belgian automotive association FEBIAC, and secondly, it attracted not just one, but two ministers to speak. These were Belgian Federal Mobility Minister François Bellot (photo), and Brussels Region Mobility Minister Pascal Smet.
François Bellot started by saying that what is needed is a real alternative to the individual car for the home-work commute. The car still has its place, he went on, but not in the old way. This is in fact where the Kowo system comes in. It is a programme run within individual companies, enabling people to come to work together in one car. The ‘match-making’ is done by a smartphone app, on which the passengers can see not only the time that the driver will pick them up, but the route and other pick-up points along the way. The app also enables companies to launch awareness campaigns among its employees, such as ‘Mobility Week’ for example.
One of the interesting elements built into Kowo is an insurance policy backed by insurance giant Axa. This provides cover in a case where a planned trip cannot take place because, for example, the driver is taken ill and cannot go to work. In such a case, the other passengers are picked up, under the insurance policy, by taxi.
Brussels Region Mobility Minister Pascal Smet, whose city is infamous for its peak hour traffic jams, was delighted that someone was now offering a real alternative for the daily commute. Kowo CEO Nicolas Rampelbergs was able to illustrate just how bad things can get when he pointed out that in 2012 there were 800 km of traffic jams every day in Belgium. He also said that three quarters of drivers go to work alone, and that if this could be reduced by 25%, there would be no jams at all… A 10% reduction would reduce the jams by 40%.
And looking towards the future, Belgian Federal Mobility Minister François Bellot concluded his presentation by saying that he believed that mobility would come to be seen as a service.