Karhoo has developed the most comprehensive open platform enabling taxi and private hire e‑hailing from any website and mobile app. We spoke to their CEO, Boris Pilichowski.
How will we get from A to B in 2039?
In two decades, I believe the technology and infrastructure will be in such a place that we will be able to move around from A to B in an electric, autonomous, and shared car … or use micro mobility solutions such as bicycle, scooters etc. for very short distances.
Have you had to adapt and change your service/product greatly due to the accelerated development in the mobility industry?
We have not. Our company is only 2.5 years old, so we built our mobility platform and our products using the latest available technologies. Our open mobility marketplace is creating the change in the market, not the opposite. We help companies to adapt their service and products that accelerate development of the mobility industry.
What are your biggest challenges nowadays?
As we provide a global offering, we have to work hard to ensure we respect transport regulations everywhere. These regulations can be very local and very specific. The strength of the Karhoo marketplace is to offer mobility services everywhere, through an easy booking and tracking process: ironing-out all these local specificities in order to offer a global seamless service, is difficult.
What are your three demands addressed to politics on a national and international level?
Firstly, we must modernise regulation to protect customers, drivers and businesses but also to allow for digitalisation and optimization of the service. Secondly, more must be done to increase transparency across the industry. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly we must modernise collaboration between the public and private sector.
In the transportation industry, there has always been a lot of collaboration between the public and private sector. For example, private companies are operating bus, train, metro concessions in many many cities. They’ve always been working hand in hand. We just need to modernise this cooperation to encompass new mobility services. The relationship will remain, but the services will change.
For example, what used to be a concession for fixed bus-line might become a concession for a shared-bus services, stopping at non-specific station depending on the demand of clients. Also, as an operator of an autonomous car you will get a concession for a specific neighbourhood to put autonomous cars in. Etc…All of these things are coming. The most important thing is to have a framework where the public sector understands how to effectively work with all the different services.
The assumption is that the public sector is behind and slow, and the private sector is the space of innovation. How do you think we can increase cooperation between different sectors in order to drive change? And is this the thing that will drive change?
We don’t think that the public sector is behind and slow. When you look at the public sector for transportation, depending on the town, in many places it is extremely active and actually very modern, offering sometimes solutions that are disruptive. It is true that some actors in the private sector bring new solutions, but the public sector is catching up. It’s that collaboration between the two that is key to finding the right transportation solutions to drive the change that will affect a very large number of people.
At Karhoo, we believe the road belongs to everybody. As a consequence, we believe that transportation will always be regulated in one way or another so the space for public sector and regulation will always be there. Always.
A little over 100 years ago, Henry Ford implemented the assembly line to mass produce the Model T, which not only changed transportation, but also society as a whole. Do you feel we're at a similar inflexion point now in terms of personal transportation?
Yes, because the arrival of 3 key technologies are changing our approach to mobility: First the smartphones for geolocation, comparison and booking of different modes of transportations. Second, the possibilities to share vehicles (through ride-pooling or car-sharing) which allows to lower costs to levels that remove the need for car-ownership. Finally, the arrival of mass Autonomous Drive vehicles will also complete the revolution.
Why are people choosing mobility as a service over ownership?
If you live in a large urban area then it is cheaper, easier and cleaner. What else can we say?
How does MaaS work in rural areas?
I believe it will be through shared buses for people who need it the most such as children going to school and elderly people who cannot drive. These services are already in place but could be largely improved thanks to on-demand MaaS solutions. However, we don’t foresee MaaS in these areas working for all types of people. For example, in a family with three kids in a rural area it’s unlikely the parents can give up their car ownerships.
Scooters and shared bikes have littered the sidewalks of every major city from Paris to Beijing. How can this be prevented?
Easy. Through well-thought out, correctly implemented and well-enforced regulation.
What does the city of the future look like?
They will be green, beautiful and not nearly as noisy as today.
In which way are you contributing to the future of mobility?
We are enabling small fleets and operators to participate in the global mobility revolution. This is because the Karhoo platform brings licensed fleets around the world together with global travel operators and local authorities to create smarter mobility solutions for travellers and citizens. Just as our partners benefit from the increased footprint our platform provides, so too do local fleets enjoy more demand from the vast customer base which our partners bring.
What is the role of data and data sharing in the city of the future?
Huge. We need to utilise all the data at our disposal to carry out simulations to create the smart cities of future. Data will also be crucial in ensuring these cities are properly regulated to ensure safety, responsibility and transparency.
With the focus on advances in urban mobility, are we forgetting about rural areas?
In an industry wide sense, the answer unfortunately is yes, but things are also changing here. At Karhoo, our model works in both rural and urban areas. Our recent partnership with French railway operator SNCF acts an example of this. As Karhoo has onboarded fleets in both towns and cities, passengers across France can avail of our first and last mile service no matter where they are getting the train to and from.
What do you think of the interplay between startups and larger corporations?
Large corporations bring financing, stability and are often patient because they are used to invest in long-term industrial projects. Start-ups brings agility, speed and new ideas, which are key when a sector is being disrupted, like mobility is today. Karhoo cooperation with Renault is a good example of these types of cooperation.
What do you consider to be the most innovative company at the moment?
Karhoo as our platform is win-win for all involved. By bringing together licensed fleets around the world together with global travel operators and local authorities to create smarter mobility solutions for travellers and citizens we have the capacity to grow at a tremendous rate in the coming weeks, months and years.
What would you see as the most surprising mobility concept/trend/product?
Karhoo again! While many of the new entrants to both the mobility industry and other tech and service sectors have adopted a rather reckless Silicon Valley ‘Move Fast and Break Things’ mentality, at Karhoo we are disrupting the industry in a more positive sense. We are supporting existing fleets, we are empowering existing companies and we are providing customers with a wealth of top-class transport options.
What means of transport do you like best?
In London where I live today, I use taxis or minicabs, motorcycles or bicycles.
If you could travel through time, where would you go?
It all depends if I can come back, otherwise I am happy here and now.
It is clear that for future mobility to work the government, politicians, manufacturers, startups, etc. have to work together. What are the pitfalls and promises of these collaborations? Where can it go wrong, and where can it go very right?
It goes wrong when each try to replace each other and take on the other’s roles. For example, when a ride-hailing company tries to become a regulator and take on government, or when the public sector tries to create its own ride-hailing app… collaboration is key.