The mobility company MOIA is determined to make cities more livable – by applying a new type of ride-pooling concept for the shared use of cars. The test phase for the program has just begun in Hanover, Germany. The company also intends to enhance the service by using “co-creation.”
A dark-blue VW T6 van pulled up outside the Café Menagerie in Hanover-Linden one morning at the beginning of October. From the outside, the T6 looked like any other member of the VW series: A sliding door on the right side of the vehicle, a slightly rounded front and an immaculately gleaming paint job. But there is nothing typical about its mission in life: It could actually revolutionize the way people travel.
The T6 van is a member of the ride-pooling fleet operated by MOIA, a mobility provider in Hanover. At the beginning of October, the start-up launched a test service test with 3,500 selected individuals who are using it at reduced rates. It is a service test because the users will have an opportunity at an early stage to express their wishes and ideas before all aspects of the service have been worked out. MOIA calls the process “co-creation.”
Making cities more livable
“MOIA’s goal is to make cities more livable and environmentally conscious,” MOIA Chief Operating Officer Robert Henrich said at the kick-off in Hanover. Under the concept, people will use the same vehicle to make their shared trip instead of individual cars. As a result, MOIA is something like a car pool 2.0 – on demand, with dynamic route planning and a professional driver. “When more people jointly use vehicles, they reduce the level of noise pollution and dust particles,” Henrich said. “They can also help ease traffic congestion.”
A strong partner
As a wholly owned Volkswagen subsidiary, MOIA has a strong partner at its side, both in terms of know-how and vehicles. This is a big help when you consider MOIA’s ultimate aim: The company established just last December is determined to revolutionize urban mobility with its ride-pooling model.
The first T6 in the district of Hanover Linden and 19 other on-call vehicles can now be used by the selected test customers. The van could take them to Leibnitz University, transport the family to the doctor’s office or bring people safely home after a night on the town. “The driver comes to the place where customers want and takes them to their destination,” Henrich said. The test involves an area of 90 square kilometers.
The MOIA app
“The pickup site and the destination can be flexibly requested by using an app,” Henrich said. He then uses the MOIA app on his smartphone to arrange such a trip. The display begins to blink a few seconds later: “Your MOIA is on the way.”
Taking the fewest possible detours
The algorithm selects the nearest virtual stop. The stop is then displayed on a small map. “One of our top priorities is for the location to be no more than 250 meters from the user's location,” Henrich says. This is usually much closer to the location than the nearest public transportation stop. Here is an example: From Café Menagerie, where the test was presented, the nearest streetcar stop is about 350 meters away. That translates into a five-minute walk. With the help of the algorithm, the trips taken by the individual vans are calculated in such a way that the vehicles have to take the fewest possible detours when they pick up new passengers.
MOIA uses professional drivers: “We work exclusively with licensed drivers in order to provide our users with the best-possible service and the highest level of safety,” Henrich said.
Fulfilling an unmet market need
The MOIA strategists believe that their service fulfills an unmet market need. “Public transportation providers cannot serve all routes – and not everyone can afford or wants to use a taxi,” CEO Ole Harms said.
Just the beginning
The 20 VW vans in Hanover are just the beginning. “We will be happy to increase the fleet when demand grows,” Harms said. In 2018, the service will be introduced in Hamburg after the experience gained in Hanover has been added to it. “In major metropolitan areas like Hamburg, such a concept virtually runs on its own,” the CEO said. “In Hanover, we are studying whether it will work in smaller cities as well.”
Harms and Henrich then climbed into the vehicle. From the start, it is obvious that this is not your typical vehicle: A large display has been installed inside the vehicle. It looks something like streetcar displays and shows the next stop. The seats offer some extra space as well. Each rider has enough privacy and cannot read the private chats or e-mails of the person sitting next to him or her. “MOIA is designed to be as comfortable as a taxi, cost less than your own car, and guarantee privacy and safety,” COO Henrich says.
Close partnership with Volkswagen
A special expanded version of the T6 will soon be available for MOIA. Users’ ideas will be incorporated into this vehicle – a grip bar on the entrance or a retractable step. Both ideas were generated during a co-design workshop that was dedicated to hearing users’ opinions. The close partnership with Volkswagen makes it all possible. The next major step will be the transition to e-vehicles. MOIA is already working with Volkswagen on this change, too.