Mercedes-Benz Invests in Via Ride-Sharing Startup

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Germany-based automaker Daimler said on Tuesday that it has signed a joint venture agreement with New York City–based ride-sharing startup Via Transportation and will invest $50 million in the joint venture. Via currently offers a carpooling app in New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

The deal between Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz Van division and Via is intended to launch Via’s technology in Europe and to license Via’s proprietary technology to third-parties such as transport service providers and local public transit operators.

Mercedes will provide the passenger vans (primarily the nine-seat Vito Tourer and the eight-seat V-class) to be used in the ride-sharing network. The joint venture is expected to launch in London this fall.

According to Crunchbase, Via has raised $387 million in five rounds of funding, including $250 million in the recent Daimler-led round. Tech Crunch lists early investors as 83North, C4 Ventures, Ervington Investments, Expansion Venture Capital, Hearst Ventures, Kapor Capital, Lior Prosor, Pitango, Planven, Poalim and RiverPark. Including the latest round of funding, Via’s valuation is estimated at around $750 million.

Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, said:

On-demand ride-sharing offers many new ways of making city traffic efficient, needs-based and sustainable – especially when it involves the use of spacious, safe and comfortable vans. Via is one of the most successful providers in the growing ride-sharing sector while Mercedes-Benz Vans has the perfect vehicles that are being continuously optimised for this job.

The Via app works like any ride-hailing app but the difference is that the vehicle picks up several passengers along its route. Both Uber and Lyft offer similar services, but Via’s special sauce is its licensing program that gives transit systems a chance to compete against on-demand transportation services. Via already has licensed its technology to two European companies that operate city buses, trains and other forms of transportation in many European countries.