Startup door2door aims to empower cities to integrate on-demand mobility. (Photo: door2door)

“Why should we rival cities, when we can work with them?”

Urban mobility

Julian Ebert

12-12-2018

       

To some of us, public transit isn’t the most inspiring option to move around town – a perception that tech firm door2door is looking to change. We talked to co-CEO Maxim Nohroudi about on-demand shuttles – and driverless ride-pooling of the future.

How would our cities look, if we could get from A to B in one go, in the most comfortable way? If it was up to Berlin-based tech firm door2door, we wouldn't have to even own a car to experience the ease of mobility. Providing platform technology, the startup helps cities implement on-demand ride-pooling – and fully integrate it into their existing mobility network. Two years ago, the startup launched its shared Allygator shuttle in Berlin. Here, we sat down with co-CEO and founder Maxim Nohroudi to talk about key learnings along the way, as well as balancing business between the Bavarian Forest, Singapore and Brazil.

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2025AD: Mr Nohroudi, we kicked off our day by doing a commuter survey in our team. Half of us spent the morning stuck in city traffic; some missed their subway while looking for a parking spot. Buses were either packed – or half-empty. Surely, we can do better than this?

 

Maxim Nohroudi: Cities have paid little attention to public transport in the past 30 years. The goal was to make transit economically efficient – through cost-cutting. As a result, quality has suffered. However, we've seen a mind shift in the past years – both on the side of transport officials and among citizens. People want convenient mobility, and they want to get from A to B in one go. And while owning a private car isn't a top priority any more, they are willing to share their ride and pay for comfort and quality of life. An OECD study found that three shuttles can replace 100 cars. That’s where our vision kicks in: the vision of shared mobility that lets you combine different modes of transport without having to own them. We call it multimodal, on-demand mobility – and the time is ripe for it.

 

2025AD: What's your exact mission?

 

Nohroudi: Providing digital platform technology, we're enabling communities and transport services to run on-demand ride-pooling shuttles and integrate them into their transportation networks, thus making public transit as user-friendly as possible. The reason why we’re working with cities? They know their business better than anybody else. For example, the Munich transport authority has 100 years of experience in moving people around town, maintaining infrastructure and creating new routes. Why should we rival a powerful player by offering a separate set of mobility services?

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Companies have different strategies on how to bring about shared mobility. (Photo: Uber)

2025AD: You've been operating the Allygator shuttle in Berlin since 2016 – your first on-demand service in Germany. What is the service all about? And what have you learned?

 

Nohroudi: Allygator is a perfect playground for us to test ride-pooling in an urban environment – gathering data and insights on how to make on-demand a safe bet. The best part: we don't have to launch it as a new mobility product, as our customers already have experience in public transport. Basically, we've gained three insights. First off, we've debunked the cliché that elderly people wouldn't use digital mobility services. In fact, many of our riders are more than 60 years old. Second, we've seen how much customers appreciate comfort: The shuttle combines all benefits of individual transport – space, quietness, convenience – with the opportunity to get on and off wherever you want. And third, we've seen how important services like Allygator, but also our myBUS concept in Duisburg, are in solving the first-last mile problem.

 

2025AD: What distinguishes door2door from companies like Uber and Lyft?

 

Nohroudi: We pursue a land and expand approach. That means we’re working with our partners to find tailor-made solutions for their specific areas. Uber, for example, does it the other way around. They’re rolling out a single product worldwide. But one-size-fits-all concepts don’t work in the mobility sector. Cities vary in size, infrastructure and population – and transport authorities understand these peculiarities best. Besides, Uber offers ride-hailing as an alternative to public transit; we offer ride-pooling as a part of it. Also, in Uber and Lyft’s case, it’s private drivers working for private shareholders.

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Cities are poised to adopt shared mobility: door2door's myBUS in Duisburg. (Photo: door2door)

2025AD: In the future, modes of transport including ride-sharing will be seamlessly connected. But where do we stand today?

 

Nohroudi: We're still at the beginning. But the integration will come fast. Cities like Duisburg, Munich, Offenbach and Freyung in the Bavarian Forest are quick to adopt our solutions. As soon as 2019, on-demand services will be available on a broader scale. From 2020 on, we'll see even more elaborate levels of integration – both in depth and breadth. The technology is ready, the products are ready – and so are our partner cities.

 

2025AD: What expansion plans do you have? Any plans to go international?

 

Nohroudi: Our 2018 goal was to have partnerships with a total of 30 cities – a goal we've reached. We run parts of the Portuguese on-demand market and we have partners in Switzerland, Austria and Italy. Plus, we've set up an office in Porto Alegre, Brazil. I just came back from a trip to Singapore, where we're in talks with the Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) authority about a project involving on-demand ride-pooling. Singapore is a sandbox environment for integrated transportation. The Lion City already reduces roads and limits private cars – fleets of centrally operated, shared shuttles will hit fertile soil. Interestingly, SMRT is in contact with the city of Munich to gain insights. It's a big world, but it's a small mobility community.

 

2025AD: Ride-sharing promises to solve congestion. However, critics argue it could cannibalize public transport by seducing people to go by car. Is a symbiosis even possible?

 

Nohroudi: It is! But there are some prerequisites to be met to create a co-existence. Ride-sharing must be centrally integrated into the existing mobility ecosystem – not be established as an alternative or as a separate silo. New York's MTA has seen a decrease in passengers due to private transport services like Uber. An integrated app, however, knows how to get you to your downtown destination in the quickest and most convenient way. That may be by subway, but certainly not by car during rush hour. Also, ride-pooling must be algorithm-driven to let people, who are going in the same direction, share a ride.

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On-demand mobility lets you combine modes of transport – from subway to bike. (Photo: Adobe Stock / LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS)

2025AD: Helsinki intends to be free of private cars by 2025. Do you see similar scenarios for German cities?

 

Nohroudi: The Nordics are always five to ten years ahead of time. Helsinki has everything it takes to be a first mover in shared on-demand mobility. By expanding their public transportation system and taking regulatory steps, owning a private car could be pointless in the future. The city’s vision even proposes public and shared transport to be paid for via a single application. It’s a lighthouse project that I hope will help convince the German public.

 

2025AD: Which role does autonomous driving play in future public transport – and in your business plans in particular?

 

Nohroudi: Driverless mobility will be a building block to make public transport more attractive and accessible. Not only do autonomous vehicles hold the potential to make roads significantly safer, but they will be able operate 24/7. On top of that, they will cut costs for mobility – both for providers and customers. As soon as regulation allows for it, we’ll start showcasing automated shuttles ourselves. But that’s just part of a larger trend: from 2023 on, we’ll see a whole generation of self-driving vehicles on our roads that will offer a mind-blowing driver experience.

 

2025AD: And finally, how will you use your free time on your way to work, once the day of autonomous, connected driving arrives?

 

Nohroudi: Reading! That would be my number one activity to relax. Although simply letting go of the steering wheel, switching off and not having to monitor traffic will be relaxing enough!

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