Dashride, by creating software for ground transport companies, has empowered their customers to compete with companies like Uber and Lyft. I interviewed Dashride’s CEO and Co-founder, Nadav Ullman, about their work with the tech for driverless cars and the future of the automotive industry.
As an Administrative Assistant, my seat at the reception desk at Loeb.NYC gives me the perfect vantage point to learn about all of our companies. I meet everyone who steps through our doors. Working here and seeing everyone and everything, every day is incredibly exciting. One of our companies in particular has stood out to me lately. A software company in the taxi and transportation services industry, Dashride.
Dashride’s work in creating software for taxi/limo companies both large and small has helped empower their customer base to compete with “transport on demand” companies like Uber and Lyft. Dashride is also finding the best ways to introduce autonomous cars (self-driving cars) in the very near future.
What is Dashride? How did you build the company?
Nadav Ullman: Dashride is a B2B SaaS [Business to Business, Software as a Service] platform. The platform allows ground transportation companies to modernize their operations and consumer offerings. Our platform helps these fleets by adding automation, reducing costs, and allowing them to properly compete in a rapidly changing industry.
When Tom [Bachant, Dashride co-founder] and I were still in college, we were working on a B2C ridesharing app that connected college students who needed safe rides to the designated drivers on campuses [Sobrio]. We had launched the app on 8 different large college campuses across the country and had thousands of people using it to get around safely.
Before long, Uber and Lyft began to come out of beta and launch in major cities. Existing fleets started to call us saying “Hey, that technology that you built for the universities, we need that for our business.” We quickly realized there were two things going on: one, existing fleets were using antiquated systems to run their companies, which inevitably led to antiquated processes, and two, Uber and Lyft were acting a forcing mechanism to push these companies to modernize. The demand was obvious, and with over two-hundred-thousand fleets in the US alone, it was clear there was a massive opportunity. We soon pivoted the college-focused app to an enterprise platform.
Today, over four-hundred fleets from across the world use Dashride to run their businesses. Our customers range from legacy taxi companies to US municipalities to, more recently, driverless tech companies who are looking to launch a consumer offering.
What is the future of ground transportation?
Nadav: Today if you want to get from point A to point B, you can buy a car, rent a car, get a taxi, or use mass transit. These options are quickly converging in a variety ways. Driverless technology is coming to the consumer in the very near future. Alphabet’s Waymo is already expanding their trial in Phoenix and driving folks around every day without a human controlling the wheel. There are at least twenty to thirty other companies who are not very far behind. Right now on average eighty percent of the cost of an Uber goes to the driver, so by cutting out the driver we’re drastically reducing the cost of ground transport. By adding complex pooling functions on top of that, we’re able to cut the costs even further.
Existing bus and shuttle routes will become dynamic, based on real-time demand. Existing car manufacturers who have built massive businesses by selling expensive assets are now all investing heavily to figure out how to start providing transportation-as-a-service instead. Car Rental Companies, OEMs (car manufacturers), and ridesharing solutions, and new tech startups are all finding themselves competing with each other to deploy the most highly accessible and cost-effective fleet.
Are driverless cars a good ownership investment? What does car ownership look like in a self-driving world?
Nadav: The average person uses their car for thirty minutes a day, and at any point, there are over a trillion dollars worth of parked cars just sitting around unused. For the average person, owning a car will certainly not make sense. In the short-term, there will continue to be a consumer market for buying cars, and during their under-utilized times, owners will put them up on a driverless network. As rides continue to commodify, car ownership will continue to drop over time. This is both an existential threat to the existing OEMs and car rental companies, as well as an enormous opportunity. The Dashride platform is well-positioned to help usher these companies into the future of driverless cars by providing a proven platform to launch a consumer ride-sharing solution.
If everyone uses driverless taxis, will companies like Uber dominate the market, or is there room for competition?
Nadav: Uber’s greatest value right now is that they have the closest available driver to you. Once drivers aren’t in the equation, their greatest competitive advantage disappears quickly. Soon, it will instead come down to who has the closest available autonomous vehicle. By 2025, the AV (autonomous vehicle) industry in the US is speculated to be forty-five billion dollars and seventy-seven billion dollars by 2035. Some project far higher. It should not come as a surprise that there’s massive companies are investing and vying for a portion of the driverless cars market. The coming disruption in the ground transportation industry is going to be far larger than the disruption that Uber and Lyft have been creating. We still have a long way to go before there are clear winners in the industry.
When are driverless cars going to hit the market?
Nadav: They already have. Waymo is currently providing rides to a handful of communities in Phoenix and has already announced expansion plans of the taxi service to a larger territory. There are driverless shuttles available to the public in places like Greece, China, the Netherlands and even in Las Vegas. Autonomous transport on public roads isn’t just speculation. Dashride is currently providing software to several autonomous technology companies to help them bring their technology to consumers, and these companies are most often waiting to be approved to operate by local governments. The technology is built, and regulations are just starting to catch up.
How will autonomous cars affect the environment?
Nadav: The important trend in the industry that’s happening as it relates to the environment is the uptick in production of electric cars. India, France, Britain, and Norway have already announced that they plan to phase out gas-powered cars altogether through regulation. Other countries and even US states like California have hinted at similar moves in the future. Car manufacturers are responding quickly with electrified future lineups, so we’re going to see a lot more EVs on the marketplace. Between regulations, and the rapid decrease in the costs for battery tech, we are seeing there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic.
Caroline: Elon Musk’s The Boring Company has been designing underground highways with the expectation that we can use these for faster long-distance travel and use existing roads for shorter distances. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has started building its first “techified” city in Toronto through the Sidewalk Labs project. We appear to be heading toward designing cities and infrastructure with tech and innovation in mind.
Nadav: Designing cities with the latest technology has always been the case. Ancient Rome became successful in part due to their innovative techniques of constructing concrete buildings and installing aqueducts in their major hubs. Innovation is certainly happening at a faster pace now, so it becomes harder for governments to keep up. Public/private partnerships like the one between Sidewalk and Toronto will be an important way to balance the pace of the tech sector, and the promotion of general welfare for citizens. We’re seeing this happen first-hand. Dashride has partnered with US municipalities to help modernize their city taxi offerings. They are using our tech to increase accessibility to reliable transportation, an important function of a local government.
Will we need to change infrastructure to work for driverless cars?
Nadav: I think about it from the other way around. What we’re seeing is that in the effort to bring products to market, companies are designing their autonomous vehicle technology to accommodate to our current environment, and reacting to existing signals. We don’t need new highways or signage to make it a reality. Where it gets interesting is how our surroundings will be designed differently once the adoption occurs. Right now, when you look out the window, think about how much of our environment today is designed around the behavior of human driver – how much space is taken up by massive roads and driveways, parking lots, and highways.
It’s not the case that we should start building new infrastructure to accommodate for upcoming driverless cars, it’s that these new vehicles will allow us totally redesign our towns and cities to better accommodate for other priorities – more bikers, communal spaces, and parks.