We support professional fleet operators that provide regional personal transport using multi-passenger vehicles, i.e., large sedans, vans, mini-buses. Professional fleet operators are business entities that purchase and own their vehicles, obtain operating licenses in each of the geographic areas that they operate, purchase necessary insurances, and hire drivers to provide services to individuals or other entities. They can be town car services that you will find on Yelp and call when you need a ride, or the shuttles that run between your office and the Bart station, or the buses that run in your neighborhood. On a conservative estimation, there are over 100,000 fleet operators for personal transport in the US. Majority of them are private, small-medium size businesses that manage from 2 to 3 vehicles to upto 100 vehicles.
Two important attributes of the regional fleet businesses for personal transport are – they’re strongly geographically focused, and their cost is scaled with revenue in lock step, unlike software business. These are the reasons that we choose to be an SaaS provider. We stay away from being a fleet operator ourselves because fleet operation is a complex business that requires completely different skills and knowledge from the engineering and product skills that we have. As a startup, it’s not practical to straddle both technology development and fleet operation with limited resources. We decide to focus on technology and product. We consciously choose to partner with the experienced operators who understand the business well. We also don’t consider marketplace as a viable model in the early stages of our business. Marketplace needs scale, i.e., the more, the merrier. Fleet businesses have a strong regional focus due to the cost. We do not think the scale of both demand and supply in most suburban regions is big enough to build an efficient marketplace. In addition, a marketplace model has a tendency to attract commodity services or products, or commoditize them on its platform. That’s in contrast to the desire of fleets to differentiate their services. Therefore, we plan to be a pure SaaS player or a technology supplier to fleets.
What operators care the most is vehicle utilization. Higher utilization means higher revenue and profit, vice versa. Their biggest fear is their vehicle and driver idling, which means they’re incurring cost without any revenue. Needless to say they are juggling and processing a large amount of information everyday and all the time. Any operator with five or more vehicles will need to adopt software tools to manage the operation. Unfortunately the tools that many fleets are stuck with, i.e., paper, phone, tribal knowledge of routing, and legacy software are not designed for robust data processing. As we increasingly rely on digital tools in our life and work, many fleets are struggling to keep up with the development of technologies.
Fleet operation is the backbone of transportation services. Thriving and growing fleet services will not only rejuvenate the transportation industry, but also create a commercial path for autonomous vehicle adoption by the masses. The technologies, knowledge, expertise and user base that we develop and acquire will be readily applicable to autonomous fleet operation.