What’s Really Going On Over at Blue Indy?

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Blue Indy is one of those projects that seems like it was made to have Gas 2’s praises heaped upon it. For the unfamiliar, Blue Indy is a ride-sharing scheme, which is good for cities, city-dwellers, and the planet. More importantly, though, it’s the only way you get to drive around in a Pininfarina-designed Bollore EV, which is a weird little electric car that you can’t buy.

All great stuff, in other words — but is Blue Indy too good to be true?

Jeremy Hall, a long-time friend, scooter racer, inventor of the nacho cheese fountain, and avid reader of Gas 2, was so excited about Blue Indy that he went looking for a job there. Along with a few other excited prospects, Jeremy actually made it through to the training round, which was a 2 day exercise that gave applicants a sense of the company and which could, in theory, lead to a full time job … and that’s when things started to get weird.

“When I walked into the office,” wrote Jeremy. “I was hit with the smell of new carpet and construction. ‘No big deal,’ I said to myself. But, as I went in further, I was shocked. A bay of computers sat on folding tables, white boards with tons of frantic scribbles (were) leaning against the wall, and the guy who was to train us for the event [seemed like] someone who could barely get your order right at McD’s.”

A startup cutting corners and pushing up against construction deadlines while bringing on people who are barely qualified as stopgaps isn’t news, but Jeremy insisted that there was more to it.

“It wasn’t long before I was asking tough questions that they ‘couldn’t answer’,” he explains. Adding that it was important that he “not be afraid to tell the customer ‘I don’t know’, and direct them to the website. Remember, they don’t even have an app yet.”

Those “tough” questions included basic, logistical hurdles that formed the core of Blue Indy’s business process. Questions like, “If no cars are being used other than yours where do you park when you’re done?” (all of the spaces are used 100% of the time, unless a car is in transit) “How do you keep the cars clean?” and “What happens [if a customer’s] battery goes dead?”

At this point, Jeremy’s excitement about the prospect of working at Blue Indy started to evaporate. According to him, the trainer kept emphasizing that “People will yell at you,” and that he should “try not to get angry” and “avoid interacting with the public if they don’t support (Blue Indy).” Even with his excitement in the potential job waning, though, the Blue Indy training day was going to give him a chance to test drive the Bollore — something he’d wanted to do since at least 2011.

Even the car, however, was a disappointment. “Initially, I was stoked,” he says. “But I was severely disappointed. The seats were super soft but uncomfortable. The seating position itself was very flat, like a sports car, but the A pillar made it very hard to see and the rearview mirror was worthless. Add in the that a safety feature (a sound warning device) was inoperable … and it took a good bit of work to get the navigation system and other important items such as the AC to fire up.”

He drove home from his training day disillusioned, and weighing his misgivings about Blue Indy against the fact that it was, you know, a full-time gig with what were expected to be full-time benefits. Later that night, though, Jeremy says he received a call from Blue Indy saying that they had a last-minute offer from a nonprofit group to “volunteer” staff to the fledgeling ride-sharing program.

It’s probably fair to assume that Hall, and the dozens of other people who “trained” with Blue Indy, might be looking at things through poop-tinted lenses. One thing that seemed to have been repeated by the people commenting on his Facebook posts about his experience, however, seemed pretty familiar: questions about insurance.

“They (Blue Indy) don’t have very good insurance,” he explained. “The plan is to use your existing auto policy, and then only carry PLPD on their vehicles.”

We’ve already seen how insurance issues have affected companies like Uber in California (and their drivers!), so it’ll be interesting to see how things play out once Blue Indy gets hit with a nearly inevitable major accident claim.

Blue Indy, for the most part, keeps playing the chipper startup, issuing press release after press release and touting the fact that “Blue Indy will also help attract professional talent to the city’s employer base,” though how it will do that with nonprofit, volunteer labor remains to be seen.

Here’s Blue Indy’s official release from this morning, below. Take a look at it, compare it to Jeremy’s story of haphazard organization and loosely organized processes, then let us know if you think Blue Indy will fare better than London and Paris in the comments at the bottom of the page. As always, if we hear from the company, we’ll publish their response. 🙂

 

INDIANAPOLIS PLUGGED IN FOR LARGEST ELECTRIC CAR SHARING SERVICE

INDIANAPOLIS — Marion County residents and visitors can now make short point-to-point trips throughout Indianapolis without spending a penny on gas. Blue Indy today put into service the first 50 of an eventual 500 electric vehicles that provide convenient, cleaner transportation with the swipe of a membership card.

This is the first-of-its-kind electric car sharing service in the U.S. by the Bolloré Group of France, which already operates car sharing services in several other cities, including the world’s largest EV sharing service: Autolib’, in Paris.

“Indianapolis is the perfect home for our first venture into the American market”, said Cédric Bolloré, Vice President for Development. “Indy has a vibrant downtown, thriving neighborhoods, and a population that demands innovation and cleaner alternatives to car ownership, and transit options.”

The Bluecars run on Lithium Metal Polymer (LMP) batteries developed by Bolloré and have a range of 120 miles between charges. They create zero emissions, and integrate innovative technology to make their use convenient, safe and simple.

“Indianapolis is home to a growing tech sector, arts and cultural attractions, first rate medical and educational institutions, and thriving neighborhoods”, said Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. “I am delighted to welcome Blue Indy as a clean, affordable transit option to help connect visitors and residents with all that Indy has to offer.”

As of today, 125 parking spaces are equipped with charge points. Reserved parking spots mean no need to look for parking. As Blue Indy builds out across the city, customers will be able to take advantage of up to 1,000 parking spaces in 200 Blue Indy stations outfitted with charging infrastructure and easy-to-use customer kiosks. With a membership card in hand, drivers will simply swipe their card across the Blue Indy car windshield. The car will automatically unlock and welcome the driver back to Blue Indy with their own favorite radio stations stored from previous trips. The standard Blue Indy membership costs $9.99 per month. Members pay four dollars for the first 20 minutes they use the car, and 20 cents for each minute thereafter. Membership can be obtained via Blue Indy’s website (www.blue-indy.com) or at Blue Indy enrollment kiosks. A Blue Indy smartphone app is also available. Memberships may be purchased for a day, a week, a month, or a year.

“Based on our experience in Paris, Bordeaux, and Lyon, we expect the average car sharing transaction to be about 20 minutes”, said Bolloré. “Indianapolis will benefit from technology and processes proven in Paris for the last four years. Now Indy will be the model for North America.”

Blue Indy expects to provide up to 100 full-time jobs through the end of 2016, as skilled union trades workers install electrical and telecom infrastructure in dozens of neighborhoods and commercial centers. An additional 100 full-time employees will work for Blue Indy in time as ambassadors, dispatchers, and service technicians.

Blue Indy’s car sharing service is a perfect complement to the city’s long-term public transit strategy, which includes expansion of IndyGo and bicycle lanes. Blue Indy will also help attract professional talent to the city’s employer base, and help central Indiana move more quickly away from fossil fuels as an energy source for public transportation.

 

Original content from Gas 2, with additional information from Blue Indy.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.