Discover the fast-growing tech firm behind new mobility services
Wunder Mobility, the technology company that provides car pooling, vehicle sharing and fleet management solutions to companies such as Daimler, Toyota, Yamaha, BMW and Volkswagen, is expanding from its European base into the United States.
The Hamburg-based business has secured $60 million in Series B financing from its existing investors to support its expansion plans, with a new office opened in Los Angeles.
“Companies across the world need a flexible solution for their mobility challenges,” said Sam Baker, co-founder and COO at Wunder Mobility.
Sam Baker: "We are providing the technology layer that allows our partners to get into the mobility business."
The company provides the technology platforms for carpooling; on-demand shuttles; car, bike and scooter sharing services; and parking management. Its technology is already used in more than 100 cities on five continents to power more than 100,000 vehicles.
“Five years ago when we started, it [securing finance] was a lot more challenging because of the perception of the way the mobility world was evolving, based around Uber taking over everything,” said Baker. “That perspective has evolved quite dramatically; we now have legacy transportation operators and automotive players entering this space and providing their own transportation services, and we are providing the technology layer that allows our partners to get into the business.”
OEMs seek mobility partners
In their approach to mobility services, OEMs are adopting a similar philosophy to their manufacturing processes, said Baker. Just as car makers have become assemblers rather than manufacturers - about 80% of vehicle components are now made by third-party suppliers – in the mobility world they are also “looking for a flexible network of suppliers,” he said.
Specialist technology companies give OEMs a rapid and convenient entry to the mobility space via white label solutions.
“But they will be packaged in a brand that OEMs own, engaging the public similarly to how they are doing right now with auto sales,” said Baker. “Mobility is the convergence of the physical and technology worlds. With transit services most of the experience is in real life, the vehicle you are riding in, the people who you are interacting with, and not the app itself.”
So will the future see just a handful of technology firms providing the back office platforms for mobility companies around the world?
Baker disagrees: “You won’t have a consolidation where you’ll see an Amazon emerging in mobility. There will be a diversity of different transport services at the local and international level. Through more accessible technology many existing operators will continue to thrive and grow.”
Who will win the mobility race?
Nor does he see any particular sector, whether automotive, municipal or start-up, dominating the future of mobility.
“In the long term we see the role of cities really emerging,” said Baker. “The mandate of cities is to provide for comfort and convenience in citizens getting around on a day-to-day basis, so it’s difficult to imagine that entire transit networks would be allowed to be privatised in an unstructured way. We imagine that cities are going to have very close control of what is going on in their streets in terms of private asset transportation models. At the same time, we actually see cities providing their own mobility services to complement private offerings.”
Will travellers need multiple apps?
So will business travellers have to rely on a variety of apps to piece together a multi-modal journey, using automotive-based mobility suppliers for four-wheel transport, and public authorities for mass transit solutions, such as bus, tram and train?
Baker sees access to all forms of transport converging: “In common platforms where you get all the options presented to you and as the end consumer you get to choose based on cost, convenience and speed. Right now it’s not a seamless experience in most settings, but this is a vision that is shared among many different actors in the mobility space.”
Wonder Mobility’s technology is even being deployed by end-user fleets. In Germany, for example, the mobile phone company O2 is using a combination of Wunder solutions to manage the shortage of parking spaces at its office, where there are only 300 parking spaces for 4,000 employees. By combining its carpooling technology with its parking management system, Wunder has enabled O2 to reserve parking bays for staff verified to have shared a lift to work.
“This allows companies to save 20% on their overall parking capacity, simply by encouraging the sharing of existing assets,” said Baker.
It’s a compelling example, he adds, of how technology can maximise the capacity of current assets in a brave new world that will still require core fleet management skills.
“Even if we have autonomous vehicles driving around the streets of cities there are still going to be people building those vehicles, financing those vehicles, maintaining them, cleaning them and repositioning them,” said Baker. “All of those factors of fleet management still exist even if you have very smart apps. That is a really strong sign that a lot of existing transportation suppliers are going to be really relevant players in the future.
“For example, we are working with a dealership group in the Nordic region that is starting to provide operational services for new mobility service operators. If you imagine a dealership infrastructure, it has maintenance, cleaning, people who can move assets around and fix things – a new mobility service operator doesn’t have any of that infrastructure. So the dealership can provide a turnkey solution to help manage the underlying operation of the mobility sharing service. This is a win-win scenario and a really interesting opportunity for the future.”