Blame it on space, congestion or the fact that people are now increasingly aware of the footprint that they leave behind on the planet, but the on-demand mobility trend is seeing a steady rise the world over. That’s just where Israeli Vehicle-as-a-Service (VaaS) start-up, Autofleet, comes into the picture.
Auto Futures caught up with CEO, Kobi Eisenberg, to find out more.
“Autofleet provides the leading Vehicle-as-a-Service platform for fleets to optimize existing operations of the fleet including rebalancing, charging and servicing, and to seamlessly launch new ride related services including delivery and on-demand passenger transportation. Our platform leverages advanced machine-learning algorithms for demand prediction, optimised placement and dispatching, automated in/de-fleeting, dynamic pricing and more,” says Eisenberg.
Autofleet has partnered with some of the largest fleets in the world including Avis Budget Group, Zipcar and Keolis.
“Over the past decade, mobility business models such as ride-hailing have seen enormous success and growth, providing new means of transportation for millions of consumers. But these services have also increasingly been shown to increase congestion; struggle to retain driver supply, often relying on gig-based drivers who are not protected employees; and most importantly lack a clear path to profitability as asset-lite companies who don’t have economies of scale.
“We believe that professionally maintained asset heavy fleets — including rental, leasing, car sharing, and taxis — are already and will increasingly play a significant role in the value delivery chain of mobility services. Autofleet’s platform and technology enables the transition of a traditional asset heavy fleet to Vehicle as a Service providers,” Eisenberg tells us.
In April 2020, Autofleet announced $7.5 million in funding from a combination of Series A and seed financing. The Series A was led by MizMaa Ventures with participation from mobility-focused investors Maniv Mobility, Next Gear Ventures and Liil Ventures.
I wanted to get a better understanding of just how much of a difference a company like Autofleet can make in the mobility space, and how its fleet optimisation service has helped fleet as well as ride-hailing operators streamline their operations.
Eisenberg explains: “The mobility sector overall is transitioning from almost a decade focused on growth and launching new services, to a greater emphasis on sustainability and profitability. Looking at almost any service — ride-hailing, micro-mobility, car-sharing — we see a greater push to demonstrate efficient and profitable operations in the short term. Autofleet is singularly focused on this effort, to transform the existing assets in the industry to seamlessly serve any mobility demand, with maximum efficiency.
“By working with asset-heavy fleets, and optimizing their existing operations, and breaking down siloed fleets to leverage any vehicle to serve multiple demand profiles, Autofleet enables the streamlined operations required for sustainable mobility services, starting today. This capability also lays the essential groundwork that AV operations need to run at scale, enabling fleet operators to serve any mobility demand from a single, expertly managed fleet.”
Using the Autofleet platform, fleets such as rental car companies, car sharing operators and even micro-mobility operators, are able to automate and optimise their existing fleet operations, so reducing fleet downtime, increasing conversion rate, and revenues.
To help me understand this better, Eisenberg even gave me some use case examples:
● Rebalancing: The platform predicts future demand and calculates vehicle moves in order to increase conversion rate and revenues for the fleet.
● Charging: For EVs the platform decides which vehicles need to be charged, not only based on charge level but also based on predicted demand and decides where to charge the vehicles while load balancing the charging stations and the grid.
● Servicing & cleaning: The platform adds servicing and cleaning tasks based on fleet policies and vehicle usage. Tasks are assigned to field agents to maximize efficiency.
We have a particular interest in enabling greater utility of electrified transport.
Many businesses are increasingly looking to electrify their fleets. I was curious to know just how different is managing an electric or semi-electric fleet as opposed to a traditional fleet with ICE vehicles, and whether there were any challenges to them.
“An EV is most suited for high utilization use cases: the higher the utilization, the lower the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) in comparison to ICE vehicles. Therefore, we see the proliferation of EVs happening first and foremost through fleets. More than 10% of vehicles that Autofleet manages today are electric and some of them are fully electric fleets,” explains Eisenberg
“The Autofleet platform provides two primary solutions for EV fleets – Simulation and planning, and optimizing EV operations across any mobility operation. Simulation and planning help find the optimal EV deployment of the fleet including: TCO analysis, EV acquisition strategy (mode, range etc.) and plan optimal charging infrastructure (charger location, type and volume). Optimizing EV operations across any mobility operation, on the other hand, included EV route optimization and automatically select when, where, and at what price to charge vehicles in the fleet in order to maximize revenues and minimize downtime.
“In addition, the Autofleet platform integrates with Tesla’s on-board system, allowing us to extract and utilize operating data and send route information straight to the Teslas. As a technology provider with a vision of creating more sustainable models for mobility, we have a particular interest in enabling greater utility of electrified transport.”
Autofleet also recently announced a partnership with the U.S. electrified transportation company Revel to launch a new rideshare service with an all-electric fleet of Teslas in New York City.
“Cities need sustainable rideshare services starting immediately, and Autofleet’s platform is uniquely positioned to support a highly efficient and optimized operation while providing an exceptional customer experience,” states Paul Suhey, Revel COO and Co-Founder at Revel.
Partnerships and Future Plans
The world is moving towards autonomous driving, especially in the ride-hailing, public transport and delivery sectors. According to Eisenberg, Autofleet’s platform is perfectly capable of handling both autonomous as well as human driven fleets.
He says: “For our platform, there is no difference between an autonomous fleet and a human-driven fleet — we work with both types of fleets and provide the operator with a single point of access for managing and scaling deployments. For example, our partner Keolis in Sweden is currently operating autonomous shuttles using our platform and can further integrate seamlessly any other vehicle model or type into the platform.
“In many of our deployments with traditional vehicles the drivers are compensated per hour (rather than per ride), thus eliminating the dependence on driver decision making and allowing the platform to optimize at a fleet-wide level as it would with AVs,” adds Eisenberg.
The company has announced a whole range of partnerships, with the possibility of more to come.
“In April, Autofleet and Bluebird, Indonesian operator of one of the largest taxi fleets in Asia, announced the launch of a Vehicle-as-a-Service offering that will use our AI platform to optimize Bluebird’s 23,000 taxis in Jakarta for ride hailing. Transit operator Keolis is working with us to leverage data from its new autonomous electric shuttle project in Gothenburg, Sweden. We have also partnered with global fleets and manufacturers such as Avis Budget Group, Zipcar, and Suzuki,” he says.
With all this and more in the pipeline, Autofleet is one mobility start-up that you should definitely be watching closely in the near future.