In a move to expand its business into the logistics and delivery segment, ride-hailing startup Via today announced that it acquired Fleetonomy for an undisclosed sum. Via, which says it plans to apply Fleetonomy’s expertise in demand prediction and fleet utilization to support fully integrated, digitally powered logistics solutions, says the pandemic has highlighted the growing need for essential services and goods delivery.

Tel Aviv-based Fleetonomy, which was founded in 2017 by CEO Israel Duanis and CTO Lior Gerenstein, taps AI to analyze data and deliver insights with the goal of maximizing inventory and promoting proactive maintenance. The company provides white label ride-sharing and on-demand car subscription services that can accommodate semiautonomous and autonomous fleets. With Fleetonomy’s cloud-based suite of tools, managers can simulate services before deploying cars on the road, adjusting for factors such as fleet size, parking, charging locations, demand, and more.

“As we continue to build the next generation of public transportation and delivery infrastructure, we are proud to partner with Fleetonomy to step into this new phase of growth,” Via cofounders Daniel Ramot and Oren Shoval said in a statement. “We have been consistently impressed by Israel, Lior, and the entire Fleetonomy team, and by the beautifully designed and exceptionally engineered products they have created. We share a vision for the future of mobility and look forward to realizing this vision together.”

Prior to the acquisition, Fleetonomy raised $3 million in a seed round led by Vertex Ventures, with participation from Kardan Ventures and VectoIQ.

“Today is a very exciting milestone for our company,” Duanis said. “When Lior and I founded Fleetonomy three years ago, we had a very big mission in mind — to provide a new way of managing fleet based services … In the past three years, with the incredible Fleetonomy team and partners along the way, we’ve been very lucky to see this mission turn to reality with customers such as Toyota, Jaguar Land Rover, Audi, and other top players in the mobility space. By joining Via, we will be able to expand and extend this mission and work together on Via’s great vision of changing the landscape of transportation.”

The logistics market is an increasingly attractive investment for companies like Via. Even pre-pandemic, last-mile delivery was fast becoming the most expensive part of the supply chain, with research firm Capgemini pegging the percentage of costs at 41%.

That no doubt factored into Via’s calculation, which faces an uphill battle as the pandemic rages on around the world. In March, Via suspended shared rides in areas like New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco, a blow to its shared-ride business consumer model. A report from Edison Trends found that spending on ridesharing plummeted around 21% in the seven-day period ending March 16; Via competitor Uber said gross bookings on rides were down 75% in the three months through June, and Lyft previously said that April ridership was down 75% from April 2019.

Via — which has raised $500 million in venture capital to date at a $2.25 billion valuation — first launched in New York City in 2013, but it’s now deployed globally in more than 70 cities in 20 countries, operating in Europe as ViaVan in partnership with Mercedes-Benz Vans. As of March, the company says it has provided over 70 million rides, up from 50 million as of July 2019. And Via works with more than 150 partners across municipalities, public transit agencies, transportation operators, corporations, schools, and universities to optimize their transport systems, such as the city of West Sacramento, the Los Angeles Metro, Transport for London, Sydney’s Transport for New South Wales, and the New York City Department of Education.

Via’s ride-sharing app and service tap AI to combine multiple passengers or packages headed in the same direction in real time, ostensibly reducing urban congestion and emissions while providing a lower-cost mobility service. Shared rides are usually from corner-to-corner, requiring passengers to walk to a nearby pickup point indicated on the app.

Last year, Via announced the debut of a driverless shuttle program in New South Wales, Australia, in partnership with the BusBot project, local bus operator Busways, local government agency Transport for New South Wales, and startup EasyMile. More recently, the company launched an on-demand transportation pilot in Sacramento, California, that let customers hail rides from apps and the city’s public transportation department. Just this month, Via unveiled in Edmonton what it claims will be Canada’s largest on-demand transit service, with over 60 shuttles that will connect commuters and residents to transit hubs across the city starting in mid-2021. And in the U.K., Via was awarded a multimillion-dollar grant by Innovate U.K., Britain’s innovation agency, to develop a platform that supports local partners as they optimize emergency and last-mile delivery efforts.

Ramot has said that the end goal for Via is an initial public offering. It’s unclear when that might happen.

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