@Seattle Interactive: On Demand Autos, Local Lifestyles, and BMW’s Reinvention

Transportation is a pillar of the local economy, along with shopping, housing, schools and entertainment/culture. All of them link with one another at some point. Next generation transportation concepts, like ride sharing, on-demand rides, autonomous driving and the Connected Car will all have have a significant bearing on local living and commerce.

At The Seattle Interactive Conference this week – a two day mega-event in its 7th year dealing with every aspect of Seattle’s tech economy and attracting 3,000 attendees — a panel dealt specifically with The Future of Transportation.

One of the more progressive approaches is taken by Seattle-based ReachNow, a BMW-owned company that provides BMW, BMWi and MiniCooper cars for short and long term loans, or chauffeuring. It also helps car owners lease their cars out when they are not in use.

The goal of the company is not just to help people get into “the ultimate driving machine” said CEO Steve Banfield. “We want to help consumers navigate through their world.” Left unsaid: the company’s goal to remain relevant as the use of cars is likely to shift 180 degrees before the current fleet is turned over – estimated to be a 30 year process.

Unlike the parent company, ReachNow isn’t focused on delivering a prestige experience. Cars on the network are rented out at 41 cents per minute, with cheaper rates for day or week-long use. The company also prices its efforts in a way that allows it to get involved with important civic needs, such as chauffeuring kids, or helping seniors get to health care appointments.

“We are not going to get people if they feel like they are priced out of a product,” said Banfield. And taking Ubers all the time isn’t really affordable, especially if you are going 50 miles round trip to a corporate campus or similar destination.

Scoop, now operating in San Francisco and Seattle, has similarly focused on making car usage more efficient – in its case, by focusing on ride sharing. The service now has 13,000 customers in Seattle, with a run rate for two million trips this year. “Cars were obviously not built for one person,” said Scoop Head of Sales and Partner Success Peter Kim. Nevertheless, he notes that 75 percent of cars are driven solo.

People actually tend to like car pooling – it makes a ride a “socially productive time,” Kim suggests. “The friction is getting people in the car.” Scoop is handling it by focusing not on pick up locations, which are widely scatters, but to places where people want to go,” like to Microsoft or Boeing.

For more on this subject, see USC Annenberg’s new report on The Future of Transportation

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