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Subscription-Based Ride-Hailing Takes Root in California

A new service geared toward closing first-mile-last-mile gaps for commuters was announced in Sacramento and Davis, Calif., last week. Officials say their vehicles will also collect data for autonomous advancements.

This Tesla will be part of a fleet of electric ride-hailing vehicles used by the startup Go360 in Sacramento, Calif.
This Tesla will be part of a fleet of electric ride-hailing vehicles used by the startup Go360 in Sacramento, Calif.
Skip Descant/ Government Technology
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A new all-electric ride-hailing service in California's capital city is designed to close first- and last-mile gaps for commuters, while laying the ground work for self-driving technology.

Go360 launched in Sacramento and nearby Davis late last week as a subscription-based ride-hailing service for daily commuters, offering four rides a day, seven days a week, for $250 a month. The service, which uses emmissions-free Tesla vehicles, is intended to give users a regular, predictable car-service with a regular and predicable flat rate.

“What we’re offering is a monthly subscription  with predicable prices, which encourages daily active uses, taking cars off the roads, reducing carbon footprints, and overall, generating more employment for the local economy here,” said Sravan Puttagunta, CEO of Go360, during a press conference in Sacramento Friday.

The service is structured somewhat like conventional ride-hailing in that users interact with the service via an app, and rides can be shared. However, given the flat monthly subscription rate, surge pricing is eliminated and the drivers are classified as employees rather than contractors.

With service offered seven-days-a-week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Go360 is ideal for workers commuting within the coverage area — about 2.5 square miles — or workers commuting via the region’s light-rail and Amtrak rail systems, in need of a last-leg transportation option.

“Our goal is to expand into surrounding cities, increasing the overall connectivity here,” said Puttagunta. The company, part of a recent cohort of startups at the UC Berkeley SkyDeck accelerator.

Go360 plans to expand its reach to Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville. The move to launch in Sacramento and Davis was praised by local officials, presenting the region as ripe for startups and innovations in the transportation sector.

“This is just a perpetuation of startups coming and finding a home in Sacramento, and making sure that they have what they need to grow here,” Louis Stewart, Sacramento chief innovation officer, said Friday.

Go360 will also lay the groundwork for autonomous vehicles by collecting the kinds of physical data needed for self-driving cars, with plans to introduce an autonomous service product in the next five years.

“While we are ferrying our riders, we are collecting important analytics, using cameras, and [observing] how cars are moving in the environment and how pedestrians are moving,” explained Anuj Gupta, vice president of Growth at Go360. “All of that data is useful for training geographic-centric neural networks in self-driving car software.”

The data collected by Go360 could potentially be shared with other AV companies like Cruise and Waymo looking to expand beyond their initial test markets, into places like Sacramento, said Puttagunta.

To reach potential customers, Go360 has partnered with HR departments as well as operators or apartment buildings to make the service familiar and available to residents and workers. It’s a move not unlike the company Share, a Columbus, Ohio, startup dedicated to providing scheduled shared rides to destinations like workplaces, with pick-ups at “virtual bus stops” or the rider’s front door.

In that case, Share worked with Smart Columbus to reach out to large employers to offer the service as a part of company benefits package.

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.