Car companies, especially those competing at the cut-throat, mass-market end, are usually focused purely on putting more vehicles -- ideally ones they build -- on the road.
But with its latest venture, Volkswagen is actually trying to achieve the opposite. In 2016, it created a tech start-up called Moia with a massive mission -- to take 1 million cars off the road by 2025 -- via the creation of innovative mobility solutions.
And less than a year later, its first car-pooling concept vehicle is a reality and is this week giving the people of Berlin a first public demonstration and a taste of transport things to come.
The Moia car is a plug-in electric six-seater that was designed specifically for ride-sharing. Therefore, each of the seats is individual and offers the same levels of leg, head and shoulder room as well as a dedicated reading light and a USB port for charging personal devices.
The vehicle is capable of covering 300km on a single charge and went from initial design to reality in just 10 months.
"The car represents total comfort and is a crucial piece of our consistent service experience," said Robert Henrich, Moia COO. "We developed it using our co-creation process, which involved multiple rounds of potential users of various age groups testing cars and providing feedback. Many of the ideas from this process went directly into the development of the car."
But the car is just one element of the concept, the other being the ecosystem of apps and algorithms that make the service perform. When potential passengers reserve a ride in the vehicle, the system crunches data in order to ensure the vehicle is as close to full as possible with other riders heading in a similar direction and creates the most direct, detour-free route that the driver then follows.
"We want to create a solution for the typical transport problems that cities face, such as traffic, air and noise pollution, and lack of space, while simultaneously helping them reach their sustainability goals," said Moia's CEO Ole Harms.
The fact that the Moia car is zero emission will help cut down on pollution, but a single vehicle won't make much of an impact on traffic or congestion conditions in most major cities. And that's why rather than a single vehicle, the Moia car will operate as a smart interconnected fleet when it goes live -- initially in Hamburg -- at the start of next year. And if it works as planned then the company aims to push forward, quickly.
"In a short time, we've laid the groundwork to add a new mobility component to the urban mix. In 2018, we'll be ready to launch our ride pooling concept internationally and take the first steps toward our goal of reducing the number of cars in major cities by one million in Europe and the USA by 2025," said Harms.