Volkswagen announced this week it has created a new mobility services brand called Moia to compete with Uber. The name is derived from the Sanskrit word “maya,” which means magic. The new brand is designed to meet the mobility needs of urban dwellers in the coming years. Today, about half of the world’s population lives in cities. Experts expect that figure to rise to 70% by the year 2050. The aim is for Moia to be one of the top 3 mobility services in 10 years says Ole Harms, the CEO of Moia.
“We are still moving around our cities like we did 20 or 30 years ago,” Harms said. “We need to offer new forms of transportation and really improve the traffic situation.” He added that the intent of the new division is to create an agile shuttle service operating in between scheduled buses and ride-hailing services such Uber. Shuttles will be hailed by a smartphone app and shared between users. The cost should be about the same as bus fare, he said.
Initially, Moia will utilize existing Volkswagen models such as the VW Transporter minibus but they will be eventually replaced by a new electric vehicle with 6–8 seats. That vehicle will most likely be built on the automaker’s BUDD-e concept based on the MEB electric platform — first shown at the CES show last January. A concept version of the vehicle could be shown as early as next year, Harms said. The project is being led by VW’s commercial vehicles division. Volkswagen is not the only company contemplating an electric ridesharing minibus. Last summer, Elon Musk mused publicly that Tesla would one day offer such a vehicle based on the Model X SUV chassis.
The new Volkswagen vehicle will be capable of autonomous driving. Driverless cars will be a big part of the Moia brand as the technology becomes more widespread, Harms said. He wants to begin testing autonomous prototypes in Moia fleets by 2019. “By 2021 I definitely see a couple of cities worldwide operating autonomous fleets,” Harms said. Last May, Volkswagen formed a strategic partnership with Gett, an on-demand mobility company. Moia will be able to build on and expand that investment going forward.
Initially, Moia will be funded to the tune of several hundred million dollars (for the first two years). The brand is based in Berlin and currently has 50 employees. That number is expected to rise to 200 employees by the end of 2017. Harms expects revenue to be “in the region of a couple of billion” dollars in 2–4 years. He said the brand’s biggest markets will be Europe, the US, and China.
Source: Automotive News