15 mar 18

Bosch's carpooling acquisition emblematic of wider trend

Robert Bosch, the world's largest automotive supplier, has acquired Splitting Fares, Inc., a small U.S. carpooling services provider. It's just one sign of carpooling's growing attraction to the wider automotive industry.

Last week, Germany-based Bosch created 'Connected Mobility Solutions' as the locus for its activities in the fields of ride services and connected vehicles. 

New division
Splitting Fares will be part of that new division. The company, founded in 2015 and now acquired by Bosch for an undisclosed sum, bases its services on an app (pictured) that connects people who share the same route to their place of work or study. 

Bosch's new division will also house COUP, a subsidiary that rents out e-scooters in Paris and Berlin: and System!, a newly-developed system of connected electrified powertrain components. Earlier this month, Bosch announced that it would start testing self-driving cars that it has been developing with Daimler.

Strategic shift
All this fits within the mission of the new Bosch division, which the company says will focus on vehicle sharing, ride-sharing and connectivity-based systems for drivers. “Connectivity is a way for us to rethink not just the car but the whole way we use modes of transport,” says Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner.

The automotive supplier's expansion into mobility services – and particularly into carpooling – marks a strategic shift, not just for Bosch itself, but also for the wider industry. 

Increasing impact
Carpooling may be harder to define or quantify than carsharing, but as mobility becomes more multimodal, its impact is increasing. 

And the industry giants are positioning themselves accordingly, preparing for a big shakeup of the sector. According to experts, short-distance carpooling in Europe is about to be transformed by the market entry of big players such as Google's Waze and UberPOOL, which already have widespread activities in North America.

Commercial success
Like Google and Uber, Bosch is preparing for a future in which Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is the default, a paradigm in which carpooling will have an important position.  

That trend is already propelling companies like long-distance carpool specialist BlaBlaCar to commercial success. Klaxit, a specialist in short-distance carpooling, recently raised €3 million in fresh funding, and is rapidly expanding its network throughout France. 

Startup ZenOnCar offers carpooling in the Greater Luxembourg region. And there are plenty of other examples of innovators and disruptors dedicated to this particular market segment. 

But what really marks out the trend for future success, is the interest of larger corporations in carpooling. 

Ready for take-off
Earlier this week in Singapore, Uber launched Uber Commute, a carpooling option aimed at Singaporeans going to and from work. 

And at the start of March, Google announced plans to bring carpooling to the UK, via the Waze app (mentioned earlier). Waze Carpool is already live in the U.S. and Brazil, and the UK could be next. It depends on the number of British users of Waze, a figure that is ticking up rapidly. 

As apps increasingly take the hassle out of carpooling, it will become an ever more popular mobility option. Bosch – and Google, Uber and others – are making sure they're ready for it.

Authored by: Frank Jacobs