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Daimler, BMW Take a Stab at the Urban Mobility Marketplace

Car-sharing, ride-hailing and other mobility-as-a-service ventures are now offered by REACH NOW, a joint company formed by Daimler and BMW.

German automakers Daimler AG and BMW Group, have launched a host of mobility services all falling under the NOW brand, which includes ride-hailing, car-sharing, parking and electric vehicle charging.

REACH NOW is one of the five business units and focuses on trip-planning and ticketing, while SHARE NOW is a platform for car-sharing; FREE NOW is a ride-hailing platform; PARK NOW puts drivers in touch with parking options; and CHARGE NOW connects electric vehicle drivers with public charging services.

“We really want to be kind of almost the ‘PayPal’ of mobility, or the 'Intel Inside' for urban mobility,” explained Nat Parker, the North America CEO of ReachNow.

REACH NOW functions as the company's North America platform, currently operating in Seattle and Portland, Ore., and offers trip-planning and ticketing options. It is the new brand for moovel, a mobile-ticketing software company formed by Daimler. 

The consolidation of various pieces of the mobility puzzle under one roof aims to solidify REACH NOW’s aim at comprehensive Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS).

To be clear, unlike Uber or Lyft, the collaboration is hardly a household name in the United States. Its presence is centered in the Pacific Northwest, while the broader NOW brand is familiar in Germany and across Europe.  

Parker envisions building on the relationships moovel has already established with the nearly 20 transit agencies the company works with in the U.S. to expand the buffet of services. But adds, challenges exist, given the more fragmented nature of the mobility sector in this country and enormous market-share already held by ride-hailing giants like Uber and Lyft, which are quickly branching into micro-mobility services with scooters and bikes.

“In North America we face a far more fragmented landscape,” said Parker. “We have essentially duopoly power in ride-hailing between Uber and Lyft.”

“And so, it’s because of that fragmentation that our approach here in the United States is more B2B, [Business to Business],” he added.

But the collaboration's ambitions are not limited to the United States. Parker said efforts are underway to to build its mobility brand in other countries as well.

“And we’re out there, definitely pounding the pavement across Latin America, Asia, Canada. So, this is something we’re seeing — MaaS, mobility as a service — is really being asked for across most large cities internationally now,” he added. 

“We sort of talk about ourselves as providing ‘smart city solutions,’” Parker continued. “Because as cities are equipping for electrification of our vehicles, as they’re looking at how we deal with the constraints of limited parking in the central city, we are able to now come to them, not just as moovel, with really strong offerings in public transit alone, but say, we want to use that as the base on which we can expand your capability to reach the user, and grow for the future.”

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.