Via is a platform that promises to shake up the market for urban citizens requiring on-demand transportation.
A rider in a city that’s using Via would log into their app when they want to travel somewhere, and select where they would like to go and when they’d like to leave. Via’s app will tell the rider where they’re being picked up and when they need to be there. The rider then makes their way to that nearby location (it could be up to a few blocks away) and waits for their driver to pick them up. The ride will be shared with other passengers, who will be getting on and off throughout the journey, until the rider is dropped off near their final destination.
A driver for Via would drive a van, usually supplied by Via, and follow their app to find out the direction in which to go. They can see what their route is at any given time, but this changes in real time, depending on where other riders are requesting rides from and to. The driver stops to pick up riders at locations given to them by Via’s app. And they drop off riders when prompted by the app, too. The driver keeps this up until their shift for the day is finished.
The great innovation in Via’s platform is in the underlying algorithm it uses to provide its service to riders and drivers. The algorithm aggregates data from all the passengers looking for rides, and dynamically updates the routing of all its drivers to provide the optimal routes for riders as a collective to reach their destinations as quickly as possible. The algorithm also employs predictive analytics to send drivers on routes that are most likely to be desired by passengers that will soon request rides.
One interesting aspect of Via is that its platform is launched separately in different cities, in partnership with either the municipalities or local transportation companies. That way the service – both the algorithm and the user experience – can be adjusted to best match the requirements of each specific city. Even the user interface is branded to match the local transportation authorities, so users often don’t realize that they’re using Via’s platform.
And what’s interesting about launching the service as separate platforms in separate cities with separate teams, is that the platforms grow in different ways and excel along different dimensions. The benefit of this is that the platform is being tested out in many different calibrations, and best practices can then be shared between the different platforms and cities.
Via’s platform creates distinct value for each of its user groups. For riders, it primarily provides them with access to a large market of drivers. But it also gives them access to a large pool of other passengers going in similar directions, with whom they can share their costs. Many riders also value the opportunity to meet different people on their otherwise mundane travels, and feel good about the fact that their ride sharing reduces their carbon footprint.
For drivers, it provides access to a whole market of people that want to be transported around their city. And, in contrast to other on-demand transportation apps, it provides them with high utilization of their vehicles because they are being directed on routes that passengers want to be riding on.
And for cities, Via’s platform reduces congestion and by extension reduces carbon emissions. It also increases accessibility to transportation for residents who are not ordinarily near local transport routes. Finally it is an efficient deployment of a city’s resources. Whereas bus routes are typically constant throughout the day, Via will ensure that routes are only being served when passengers need them.