– By Caroline Falls –
Liftango, a corporate ride-share enabler, is fielding a lot more inquiries from the fleet industry.
The smart mobility provider founded in 2014 has until now focused on the technology for companies and institutions such as hospitals and universities to offer their employees an easy way to travel to work together. Some have engaged with the car-pooling service to bolster their environmental footprint, others to cut operating costs.
Now the technology is seen as opening up new transport options for fleets, and helping improve the utilisation of their vehicles, and cut costs and carbon emissions. These benefits result from simply having fewer cars in a fleet, meaning money saved on fuel, insurance and maintenance.
“We’re having constant conversations with fleet companies reaching out, wondering how it can benefit them; we’re talking about getting the best utilisation of the fleets that operators have,” said Trystan Eeles, a co-founder of Liftango.
Applying the technology in a fleet environment is more than the developers of it envisaged when they dreamt up the car-pooling application in 2014 after complaining about Sydney roads and traffic. Eeles, an engineer and management consultant, and Kevin Orr, a mathematician and tech guy, had the idea over a coffee, deciding to do something to ease congestion. They brought Alex Girard, who’d developed a transport app elsewhere, on board early to contribute his technical skills.
Among their clients, which include Qantas and the University of Newcastle, there can be thousands of users. Newcastle uni has calculated its participation in the scheme has saved 50-80 road trips a day, or some 72,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere a year. From the outset, Eeles said they knew the transport mobility app had to be easy to use and compelling, even enjoyable for the customer.
Thanks to the growth of other online transport applications, particularly Uber and Lyft in the consumer space, it’s easier to envisage the successful take-up of a smartphone-based app to provide a service like Liftango’s in the corporate or public mobility arena.
Liftango recently announced it had won a $300,000 grant from the Australian Government’s Accelerating Commercialisation fund to develop its “on-demand transport and logistics solution”. This capital, together with some $675,000 raised from venture and mutual funds will go towards developing the technology and the application. It will also be used to build the scale of the business, take it into new regions including the U.S., the home of increasing inquiry, said Eeles.
“Now is the time the demand for the technology is peaking, so it would be a crime not to raise funds and scale quickly,” said Eeles.
Eeles recently presented at the Smart Mobility conference in Melbourne and has speaking engagements coming up in the U.K. and the U.S.
Local governments, state governments, corporates and now fleet operators and management providers are asking how can they benefit from the technology. Some are running trials already. Liftango has provided the architecture for the trial of an on-demand bus service in Woy Woy, NSW: “Allowing buses to run just in time and only doing the trips they need to, instead of just in case as now,” said Eeles. Previously, 49-seater buses ran to a timetable there, often with few passengers aboard. On-demand bus systems are also being developed or are on trial in a couple of other Sydney areas – northern beaches and Macquarie Park, Canberra and Auckland.
The technology required for an on-demand bus service is essentially using the same brains as Liftango’s share-ride app, matching requests, said Eeles, adding, and, now the more forward looking fleet operators are engaging us. “It’s a very new area of application to this technology. But these fleet operators are contacting us, they are envisaging a time where shared mobility is a more normal approach, and they are making bets on different types of technology and running trials. It’s a really dynamic time for them.”