Hailing a vehicle by app and sharing it with other passengers is now a common thing in London or New York, where Uber, Lyft or Via offer on-demand rides. In Germany, however, these services have been far more difficult to establish due to regulations that prohibit unlicensed drivers from offering public transportation. It led to a German ban on Uber’s basic ride-hailing service, although its professional taxi services remain in operation.
Daimler, maker of Mercedes-Benz and Smart cars, is stepping into this void by teaming up with Berlin’s public transport authority BVG, and Via, a New York-based specialist for on-demand ride-sharing services. ViaVan, a European joint venture owned by Daimler and Via, will start operating 50 Mercedes-Benz vans and electric cars in three of Berlin’s central boroughs next spring, Daimler said on Wednesday. The BVG cooperation enables ViaVan to use a legal loophole, allowing experimental projects to be nurtured under the agency’s wings.
VW, an investor in Uber’s rival Gett, is taking a similar route and will next year start a pooled taxi service in Hamburg, Germany’s second-biggest city after Berlin. Passengers can order by app and share the vehicle with other people. VW’s mobility-service subsidiary, Moia, has joined forces with the city’s public transportation provider, Hamburger Hochbahn, sticking to the fine print of Germany’s Passenger Transportation Act. This law only permits transport companies or licensed taxi firms to offer public transportation.