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BMW invests in new fleet automation software and launches carsharing platform in Seattle
RideCell, provider of fleet automation software and carsharing, announced today that it has secured an $11.7 million Series A funding round led by BMW i Ventures, the New York-based venture capital arm of the German luxury car company.
Also participating in the round are Khosla Ventures and angel investors, including Mark Platshon and Michael Granoff of Maniv Investments, Gokul Rajaram, Mehul Nariyawala, and Navneet Dalal.
One of RideCell’s core products is its automated carsharing platform. While there are several players already providing carsharing services, including City CarShare (in the San Francisco Bay Area), Enterprise CarShare, Zipcar, and Car2Go, RideCell puts a heavy emphasis on automating the whole process. The service even goes as far as validating the driver's identity by matching up their photo with their provided driver's license.
The RideCell Cloud checks for vehicle availability in the area requested by the user, and then locks the car for that user. I’ve reached out to the company to learn more about its plans for competing with some of the incumbent carsharing platforms and will update when I hear back.
The company also provides two additional products specifically for fleets: technology for monitoring demand response and fixed routes. In the first case, RideCell matches rider requests with appropriate drivers, and then coordinates a route that the company says can cut rider wait time as much as 50 percent. The service also includes real-time vehicle tracking, analytics, and alerts.
Designed to work in tandem with that technology, RideCell Fixed Route offers analytics, alerts, and rider apps for bus routes. Additionally, the company offers buses tablets that can be customized to gather certain information about certain routes.
Clients of RideCell today include 3M, transit agencies like the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), and BMW.
Along with its investment in RideCell, BMW today launched a premium carsharing service in Seattle called ReachNow, employing RideCell as the underlying technology. In addition to Car2Go and Zipcar (mentioned above), both RelayRides and Hertz 24/7 offer carsharing in Seattle already.
“The convergence of transportation trends in cities is of key importance to BMW,” said Ulrich Quay, Head of BMW i Ventures, in a prepared statement. “RideCell’s technology platform provides agile tools to power services that span the entire mobility spectrum, including but not limited to car sharing; making them an ideal partner for BMW.”
Though its headlines have not been as grandiose as those generated by GM recently, BMW has been fairly actively investing in this space. In February, the company participated in the $13.5 million Series A for driving analytics platform Zendrive.
RideCell says it will use its new funding to boost hiring across the company, especially in engineering, data science, product, marketing, and sales.
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