“Come on in!” Rajaa Kharaz, 45, sits behind the wheel and smiles. The air in the fully electric VW ID. Buzz smells pleasantly fresh. The vehicle’s spotlessly clean and tidy throughout. “It’s great, isn't it? I can even have my back warmed,” says the driver of Mobility’s new i&any service proudly. Launched in April, the convenient, inexpensive ridepooling scheme has customers sharing rides with others. It’s initially available in Zurich from 6 pm to 4 am, Thursday to Sunday (“How it works”).
Ridepooling? The portmanteau word is composed of the American term “ride”, meaning journey, and “pooling”, referring to a pool of several passengers. Choosing Mobility’s i&any service means travelling in the company of others who are going in the same direction. Journeys are shared, but only when it’s efficient for everyone. The routes and requests are coordinated by intelligent algorithms.
A different term, “ridesharing”, refers to private car sharing without a professional basis. A third term, “ridehailing”, refers to a service providing rides, whereby users enter their starting point and destination in an app, are picked up by a driver and taken straight to where they want to go (Uber is one such example). Here, the drivers deal with one request at a time (like a conventional taxi).
Sharing rides by means of ridepooling, however, is particularly sustainable and cost-effective, especially if the vehicle’s electric. The scheme is aimed at people with an environmental ethic and who are flexible when it comes to getting from A to B. Recent years have seen various transport providers conduct pilot ridepooling trials – including Mobility. The positive experience gained and the trend towards new environmentally benign mobility concepts have now prompted the cooperative to launch its i&any ridepooling service.
Using the i&any app, you book a ride from A to B in an electric vehicle. The professional driver picks up passengers at virtual stops dotted throughout the city of Zurich. Worth noting: there’s no need for a Mobility subscription or membership. And the routes and requests are optimised and coordinated by intelligent algorithms using artificial intelligence. Because of this, fewer cars are needed and travel costs are lower. The system also keeps empty running and downtime to a minimum. Good for the environment, good for your wallet!
Details at: www.iandany.ch
Rajaa has been with i&any since its launch and is thrilled with her new place of work: “The people carrier’s very comfortable and roomy. I love all the driver-assistance systems – they make driving around even safer. And I’m amazed how quiet the vehicle is! It’s my first electric vehicle.”
Rajaa, who’s lived in Germany and Switzerland for twenty years, has driven many thousands of kilometres in a private capacity – “accident-free so far!” says the experienced driver. For example, she drives all the way to her home country of Morocco with her three children, the car packed with homemade snacks such as freshly baked Moroccan flatbread. “That’s some eighteen hours each way, so you need food to keep the kids happy.” Rajaa loves cooking for her family, drawing elaborate tattoos on her sisters’ hands with henna, and having a quiet puff at her shisha pipe in the evening. “I enjoy life,” she grins. “This permanent position as a driver suits me to a T.”
While talking, she fishes out her mobile phone and taps on images in her photo app: “I keep a record of everything. These three young women, for example, were my first passengers,” she says, holding up the display. It shows them having fun and singing on the back seat. “They got in on the spur of the moment, because they were curious about the vehicle and its inscription. I showed them how to download the app and off we went.” They liked the fact that she was a salaried driver. “They said: a woman! That makes us feel at ease,” says Rajaa, who works a 60 percent contract. A total of seven Mobility electric vehicles provide i&any’s weekend evening service. Who uses the service? “Young people to pensioners, all kinds of different people!” she replies. Rajaa draws my attention to something outside the vehicle: “Look, people are pointing at us. They’re curious.”
A colleague of Rajaa pulls up next to her. He lowers his window and asks if they should have a pizza during the break. She nods, saying: “I like the team spirit. No one’s awkward.” Although she has to work at night, she feels safe as a woman: “Mobility has my back. The technical people can see where I am at any given moment, and we’re always in touch.” Then she receives a message: someone’s waiting at the next stop. Rajaa’s pleased: “Enough waiting, let’s go see who it is!”