Auto Futures Exclusive Interview with Bestmile CEO and Co-Founder
Imagine living in a community where you can hail a ride on-demand or summon a robotaxi, autonomous shuttle or micro-transit service using the keypad on your phone.
It’s a scenario that is set to become a reality for many more people around the globe following an investment of $16.5 million to fast-track the growth of Bestmile’s Fleet Orchestration Platform.
The company is the maker of the first orchestration platform used to plan, manage and optimize autonomous and human-driven vehicles.
The multi-million dollar boost to funds has come from two US firms, Blue Lagoon Capital and TransLink Capital. Other Series A investors including Road Ventures, Partech, Groupe ADP, Airbus Ventures, Serena and others have also contributed.
Bestmile has supported fleets on three continents since 2014 including the first autonomous fleets to operate on city streets as part of public transport networks.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. More announcements are expected in the US and Europe later in the year.
Raphael Gindrat, CEO and co-founder of Bestmile, told Auto Futures why the multi-million dollar investment reflects how the world and its views on mobility have changed over the last few years.
“The Bestmile Fleet Orchestration Platform enables mobility providers to offer ultra-efficient predictable on-demand mobility services like ridehailing, robotaxi, autonomous shuttle and micro-transit,” he said. “It is the only platform of its kind that supports human-driven and autonomous vehicles of any brand or type, with intelligent dispatching, routing, pooling, and ride matching.”
This investment signifies the critical role that fleet orchestration plays in new mobility services and the wider market. Gindrat believes that it is vital to focus on the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the vehicles within its fleet orchestration system.
“The world’s attention has been focused on new types of connected vehicles,” he says. “Less attention has been placed on how these vehicles will work together to deliver the mobility services that the world wants – efficiently and cost-effectively.”
For shared, on-demand fleets to operate efficiently, the right vehicle must be directed to the right place at the right time.
“Operators must be able to control critical factors like passenger ride times and wait times while also maximizing vehicle capacity and utilization. That’s what we mean by orchestration,” continues Gindrat.
This is a big departure from today’s peer-to-peer ridehailing platforms which are very inefficient – even in the pooled service the vehicles travel 2.6 miles empty for every mile carrying a passenger.
“The businesses can afford this because they don’t own the vehicles and empty miles don’t incur any costs,” says Gindrat. “Now that services are getting deployed, and service providers own vehicles and need to optimize those assets, they realize they need an orchestration platform in order to maximize fleet performance.”
Commenting on what customers can achieve with their connected fleets in terms of efficiency, Gindrat says that the platform allows mobility providers to define predictable design parameters for both fleets and passengers.
“Fleet parameters include fleet size, vehicle locations, vehicle utilization, booking options, and pooling thresholds. Passenger parameters include ride times, wait times, and excess times when pooling, and more. The goal is to move as many people as possible with the fewest vehicles as possible to reach financial goals.”
The future for mobility, according to Gindrat, is electric, efficient and shared – it provides for a more holistic approach and one that allows cities and businesses to reach shared goals of reducing congestion and pollution.
Bestmile’s service can integrate into an existing transport service, and has already proved its effectiveness in places such as Strasbourg, France, where the company was able to replace a large, inflexible bus line with cleaner, quieter all-electric fleet of Lohr shuttles to adjust capacity as demand shifted throughout the day.
Elsewhere, PostBus uses autonomous shuttles to reach a medieval city center that could not be served by traditional buses and in Fribourg, Switzerland, the public transport agency TPF is currently using autonomous shuttles to connect a train station with a new mixed-use business/residential campus.
Gindrat’s view is that the world needs Bestmile, as cities continue to grow and strain private transport.
“Vehicles need to be intelligently managed to work together to be able to offer the efficient services that cities need,” he says. “These services will need to be shared to reach the goals of reducing congestion and pollution, and shared services need even more coordination in order to be convenient for passengers and cost-effective for operators.’’