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🌎 Google M̶a̶p̶s̶ MaaS
Plus, Didi lands $1b for bikes, NYC gets its first scooter pilot, and Ford and Jaguar make EV pledges.
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Google Searches for More MaaS
Chances are, if you need to get somewhere and don’t know the way, your first move is to fire up Google Maps.
Like many of the things Google makes, the extent to which we rely on its navigation app in our daily lives is hard to overemphasize: Google Maps has a staggering 154.4m monthly unique users just in the United States, thanks in part to the fact that it comes preloaded on ~85% of phones.
Now Google is releasing a new feature that will allow you to pay for public transportation and parking right in the app (you can learn more about how the tool works here). It’s the latest sign that the tech giant wants to be the interface by which people navigate and traverse the real world, much like it is for the internet.
But I thought Zoom killed commuting…
With WFH on the rise, public transportation is definitely struggling. Yet interestingly, big tech has never been so eager to appeal to transit riders, showing that Silicon Valley may not really believe commuting is dead. In the last year, Uber and Lyft have both made concerted efforts to integrate mobile ticketing for buses, trains, and subways into their platforms.
The basic concept, known as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), is aimed at reducing cities’ car dependency by making it easier for commuters to plan and pay for trips across multiple modes—not just transit, but ride-hail, car-share, and micromobility too. In exchange, MaaS platforms often gather data or earn a commission.
What’s this got to do with Mt. View?
Looking at the competitive landscape, Google is poised to shake things up big-time.
The MaaS category is defined by two kinds of platforms: walled gardens and third-party aggregators. Urban policy expert David Zipper sums up the distinction.
[Walled gardens like] Uber and Lyft each want to be your go-to mobility solution, and they recently overhauled their apps to position their core ride-hail service alongside e-scooter and bikeshare offerings, often with public transit. Third-party aggregator platforms like Transit, Citymapper, and Whim have a different vision. These apps cull information from as many mobility companies as they can. Unlike Uber and Lyft, these platforms don’t offer a transportation service themselves, which means they have less at stake in which e-scooter company you choose, or whether you jump on an Uber or the bus.
Google’s entry into transportation-related payments is significant because it poses a challenge to both sides.
First, Google is not beholden to any particular mobility ecosystem. In theory, this means it can offer its users greater choice and transparency when it comes to booking trips, giving it an edge over the walled gardens. For example, Uber may give you the option to purchase a train ticket, but can it deny that it has a financial incentive to nudge you to take a more lucrative ride-hail trip instead? Likewise, Lyft can make its bikes available in its app, but would it allow you to browse Lime’s alternatives, as Google Maps did in 2019? The answer, in both cases, is probably no.
Second, Google’s massive user base, which we discussed above, is an existential threat to the third-party aggregators. Most people already have Google Maps on their phone. It not only gives you directions, it also shows you how crowded the subway is, lets you order takeout, and much, much more. As Google integrates mobile fare payments for more transit agencies around the world, the pure-play MaaS startups (which are often small, covering only a few cities and transit systems) will need to find a compelling reason why people should have their app too.
Whether the walled gardens and third-party aggregators can fend off Google’s incursion into their territory remains to be seen. But what is clear is that Google Maps believes it can be “the Amazon for transportation,” to borrow a phrase Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi once used to describe his company. With advantages in both size and aggregation, it stands a real shot at succeeding.
What you need to know this week
Didi has landed an incredible $1b for bikes. Qingju, the bike-sharing division of Chinese ride-hail firm, has raised $600m in Series B financing and another $400m in loans.
Los Angeles electric bike startup Super73 has raised $20m in a round led by Volition Capital. Here’s an interview we did last month with the founders about how they are trying to translate ebike culture to the mainstream.
A massive new study by the International Transport Forum finds that a trip by car or motorcycle in a dense urban area is more likely to result in a traffic fatality than a trip by a bike, ebike, or e-scooter.
A smartphone maker is busting into mobility, but it’s not Apple. Detel, an Indian company known for manufacturing low-cost consumer electronics such as phones and LED displays, just launched its first electric moped.
China’s output of bikes rose about 24% in 2020 compared to the year before, while electric bike production rose nearly 30% over the same period.
New York City is getting its first e-scooter program this spring in the Bronx.
As politicians in Washington, DC debate whether to create a federal ebike tax credit, lawmakers in Washington state are pushing a bill that would exempt ebikes from the state’s 6.5% sales tax.
Honda’s R&D department has filed a patent for a motorcycle-mounted drone. The application describes a drone with four rotors that would be housed in the extended tail of a motorcycle. Potential uses include deploying the drone from the bike to scout traffic conditions ahead.
Gogoro, Taiwan’s electric moped and shared battery leader, unveiled a new 55-mph seated scooter.
One reason the auto industry exerts so much power in Germany is the huge number of people it employs (830,000), but maybe the cycling sector should start throwing its political weight around too. Apparently bikes are responsible for 281,000 German jobs.
Relatedly, the German bike market is expected to grow by 20% in 2021.
Last week we accidentally shared the wrong link to a story about measuring the true climate impact of scooters. Here is the correct link.
Jobs to be done
Welcome to our jobs board, where every week we post open positions in hopes of connecting our readers with professional opportunities in the burgeoning world of new mobility. Find out who’s hiring below and sign up for the newsletter to view fresh listings every week.
Hit reply if you have a job that you’re interested in listing.
Firmware Engineer @ Acton (remote US/Canada)
Head of Warranty and Service @ Ampler Bikes (remote Europe)
Product and Marketing Manager @ eBikeLabs (Grenoble)
Actively recruiting @ PBSC (Montreal)
Senior Marketing Manager @ Trov (remote US)
Head of Product @ Unagi (Bay Area)