Tech Enhances Carpooling Network AdvantagesThu, 09/01/2016 - 13:39
Q: How did Wheels decide Mexico was ready to embrace a new approach to mobility?
A: Forbes Magazine published an article in 2015 labeling Mexico City one of the 40 cities needing a paradigm shift in its mobility strategy. When we built Wheels as a free platform to improve global mobility Mexico was a natural target for the service. Mexico City has a population of over 20 million people but it is also a place where private vehicles are used inefficiently. According to the UN, almost 80 percent of vehicles used daily in the city are only transporting their driver, meaning that 31 million empty seats are moving across the city per day. We believe the market has huge potential.
Q: What advantages does carpooling offer over other mobility alternatives?
A: Currently, public transportation demand exceeds supply. So when people start sharing their vehicle they are automatically helping improve the city’s mobility situation. As fewer cars move through the city, the average speed and functionality of roads increase. The main obstacle to carpooling is that people do not want to share their vehicle with someone they do not know. However, Wheels offers a service through which you can connect with people you already know. As on any social network, you choose your friends and the private groups that you want to be a part of. Carpooling was already a social network, we only provided a technology completely free of charge to enhance the service.
Having detected the need, we reviewed whether there were other companies already providing the service. The competitors we identified were formidable companies but most had been successful in countries without security concerns. We made some adjustments and created Wheels as an incentive for safe carpooling among friends and colleagues. We also found that many of our competitors offered their services as closed communities within other organizations. As a result, we decided to develop Wheels as an open social network, making it more efficient by covering a broader demographic.
As an extra push, we decided to include taxi-sharing services for people who either did not have a car to offer or who did not know anyone to share taxis with. We offer courses so that people can learn more about carpooling and we encourage organizations to create a username for each of its employees. We are wellaccepted in Mexico, and some clients have even referred us to companies that are interested in embracing this culture
Q: Since Wheels does not charge users, how does the company’s business model work?
A: For our service to be completely free of charge, we work with companies and sponsors that have a strong social responsibility and that want to make a bigger contribution to the country’s mobility. These sponsors finance our operations for a certain period. In return we offer advertising spaces for their brand throughout our activities. That way our users know that while Wheels is helping them improve their mobility problems, we are doing so with the support of these companies.
Q: How do you project carpooling will develop in Mexico in the long term?
A: We expect people to be reluctant to embrace the service at first but most commuters are sick of the transport situation, which motivates them to try new solutions. Latin America has close to 500 million inhabitants, who account for almost 944 million journeys per day and represent a US$180 billion annual investment in mobility. A large part of this investment is allocated to road infrastructure that is unable to support the vehicle park. However, if we start using those resources for better mobility projects, we could guarantee quality conditions for the users.