Berlin’s a city of public transport users, right? It’s better for the environment, cuts down road congestion and is just cheaper and less hassle than having a car. But what if I told you you could have the convenience of owning a car and driving where ever you wanted to without the cost, hassle, environmental or congestion worries?
It all sounds against conventional logic, but that’s what on-demand carpooling service (and Danish start-up) Spiri hopes to achieve with their electric car that “bridges the gap between now and autonomous driving on a mass scale giving users exceptionally low travel cost,” according to Spiri board member and former VP for Tesla, Peter Carlsson.
We spoke to Søren Halskov Nissen, co-founder and board member about Spiri, which plans to launch in Berlin in 2017.
You are planning on equipping the Berlin streets with electric cars that are free to drive so long as the driver picks up any passengers along the way, correct?
That’s right. The Spiri model is a hybrid that borrows aspects of car sharing and the on-demand taxi-style approach. In this model, the driver rides for free and, if there are passengers going the same direction, they get picked up and dropped off along the way. Passengers only pay the equivalent of a bus ticket.
So… What is the catch?
There is no catch. We saw a gap in urban transport services and decided to fill it. Plus we can lower our operating costs because we are building our own vehicle. It is custom-built for urban transport and is free of all the unnecessary features of a conventional car so production costs are much lower. At the same time, we have multiple people sharing a single car, which makes it more affordable for everyone and takes cars off the road.
Will the passengers have to listen to ads during their ride or buy products provided in the car?
No, not at all. User experience is at the heart of our service and hence free of intrusive ads.
How are you going to make money?
By increasing vehicle utilisation, both in terms of time but also by matching riders that share similar travel routes.
As a driver, how many stops would I have to make before getting to my destination? Will this increase the length of my journey?
The vehicle fits four people in total, including the driver. Therefore, the number of stops are not as high as on a bus. And because we use Drivr’s dispatching and ride sharing platform, we can match people going the same way. None of the detours will be more than 10 minutes.
How do you make sure the driver is a safe driver?
We will have rigorous vetting processes when selecting drivers for the Spiri – everything from reviewing driving records to in-depth interviews. Since our vehicle is fully integrated in the system, we are actually able to analyse drivers’ behaviour on the go and incentivise safe driving.
I want to take a weekend trip to the Baltic Sea. Will that be possible or is the service limited to the S-Bahn ring in Berlin?
The Spiri service and vehicle is made for urban transport only. We hope to expand the project to include rural areas and city-to-city transport but that’s still down the road.
The car and scooter sharing possibilities in Berlin are limitless and public transport is very good. Why should Berliners use Spiri?
Car and scooter sharing services are too expensive to use for your every errand trip, your meetings, your trips to the cinema. Meanwhile, riding in a public transport is not as convenient both for comfort reasons and for the fact that it is not on-demand. Spiri brings on-demand rides at super low prices.
Am I right in thinking the sign-up for passengers will most likely be like booking a taxi via an app? How will the process for drivers be?
The Spiri app will be available for drivers and passengers alike. One day you can choose to drive a Spiri and another day you can choose to ride in a Spiri. The difference being that as a driver, the app will show you where to find the nearest Spiri vehicle and once you’re in the vehicle and have set your route, you will see if and how many passengers you can pick up on the way to your destination.
When do you plan your first ride in Berlin and can I be the first driver?
We are still in discussion with local partners, but we plan to arrive in Berlin in the Spring of 2017. I’m sure we can make some sort of an arrangement for you to be the first driver in Berlin ;)!
Well, I’d better learn to drive safely then.