How One Mobility Innovator Is Supporting Cities And Envisioning The Post-Coronavirus Future

Even as populations are homebound and cities have been brought to something of a standstill around the globe, there are people and goods that need to move, and especially now they need to do so efficiently as well as safely. That means that while this may seem like the worst possible time to be involved in any transportation-related venture, there are still plenty of opportunities for companies to do something impactful in the sector. To that end it was notable when, in a rare piece of good news for the transport and mobility sectors these days, New York-based transport tech company Via announced it had raised an additional $200 million at the end of March.

Via says it is tackling that challenge in a variety of ways, working with a number of cities to apply transport solutions where they’re most needed, and it’s even helping those cities to rethink and redesign the way public transport operates, in ways that could have ramifications for the future. “We’re increasingly seeing cities seek to rapidly adapt their existing transportation systems to address the COVID-19 health crisis,” says Via co-founder and CEO Daniel Ramot. “Cities are in urgent need of innovative solutions for transporting essential employees, such as healthcare workers and essential goods including meals, groceries, and medical supplies.”

That includes repurposing existing ride-sharing services in various cities to get essential workers where they need to go. In one example, a ride-sharing service in Malta has been extended from one area to the entire country and has been offering free rides to volunteers working on the local helpline and helping make deliveries. In another, an on-demand bus service in New Zealand was quickly put into service to operate during the lockdown there. And Abu Dhabi has used the Via technology to launch on-demand hospital shuttles.

“Via’s software is highly flexible and modular, so we can collaboratively work with cities to create and deploy new solutions quickly, in some cases within a day or two,” Ramot explains. “In Berlin, for example, we converted our fleet of on-demand public transit shuttles into an overnight service that provides free transit exclusively for essential healthcare employees.” More on that initiative here.

For a company like Via that seeks to imagine and help implement the optimized transport networks of the future, this is the perfect time to be putting its technology to use and seeing what it can do to help cities react to the crisis as it evolves, including as we eventually move beyond it.

“As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, we see public transportation playing a critical role in getting people moving again and reviving cities economically,” Ramot says. “Budgets of both individuals and municipalities will likely be severely constrained by the pandemic, and we expect there will be a greater need than ever for inexpensive and accessible mobility across the globe. We believe technology, and in particular the technology that Via provides to power on-demand public transportation, will play a powerful role in helping cash-strapped public transit agencies recover from the crisis and provide efficient, affordable, and sustainable transportation to residents in need.” 


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