FRANKFURT -- Daimler will start ride-sharing shuttles in London later this year, expanding its cooperation with U.S. startup Via Transportation, whose on-demand service provides up to 1 million rides a month across New York, Chicago and Washington.
The mobile app-based pick-up service, based in Amsterdam, will be rolled out soon to more European cities, Daimler and Via said Monday in a joint statement.
Via, working with Daimler since 2015, plans to raise a total of $200 million for the expansion, people familiar with the process said. While Daimler is the lead investor, the parties didn't disclose a funding amount. Adding to the strategic investment, Daimler's Mercedes-Benz Vans unit will contribute $50 million to the new partnership.
"On-demand ride-sharing offers many new ways of making city traffic efficient, needs-based and sustainable," said Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes vans. "Via is one of the most successful providers in the growing ride-sharing sector while Mercedes-Benz Vans has the perfect vehicles."
Carmakers are increasing investments in partnerships with companies offering new services as urban consumers show less interest in owning a car. Toyota Motor last month invested an undisclosed amount in Grab, Southeast Asia's leading ride-hailing operator, a year after it bought a small stake in San Francisco-based industry heavyweight Uber.
Offering rides in specially customized Mercedes Vito and V-class vans will boost Daimler's suite of services beyond selling vehicles, in addition to its Car2Go car-sharing program and Mytaxi hailing and Moovel transport apps. The venture with New York-based Via will be open to cooperating with public-transport authorities for licensing, Daimler said.
The Via service works by connecting multiple passengers who are headed the same way, allowing riders to share a vehicle. It was first offered in New York in 2013. Users request a shared ride through an app, and an algorithm finds a suitable vehicle headed in the same direction, reducing detours.
Combining Via's technology with Mercedes vans was "ideal for our vision of offering efficient, affordable, sustainable, and convenient shared rides everywhere," Via CEO Daniel Ramot said in the statement.