This is a guest post by our newest board partner, Steven Sinofsky.
In much of the world’s urban areas, it can seem like there are more cars than people. In the U.S., there are nearly 800 cars per 1,000 people. With that comes increasing congestion, pollution, and resource consumption. Yet, surprisingly, the utilization of vehicles is at an all-time low—to put it simply, the more vehicles there are, the harder it is to keep them all in use. That’s a lot of waste.
Throughout government and private business, tens of millions of passenger cars are part of vehicle fleets used on-demand by employees. Making vehicles available when and where needed and keeping track of them is a surprisingly manual process today. Not surprisingly as a result, it’s fraught with high costs and low efficiency. In an effort to meet demand, managers of these fleets simply add vehicles to meet the highest peak demand. This results in more cars to own, manage, insure, store, and so on. But maddeningly, most of these cars end up either sitting idle, parked in the wrong place, or awaiting replacement of lost keys.
John Stanfield and Clement Gires had an idea for a better way to tackle the fleet problem. They shared a vision for reducing the number of cars on the road and increasing the amount any given car is used, while also making it easier than any other program existing to use a shared car.
John has a physics degree from Central Washington University and a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford. He’s a conservationist at heart, having spent his years just after college as a forest firefighter. Along the way he invented an engine that processed vegetable oil into biodiesel. At Stanford, he began implementing an idea for a new type of vehicle—an electric car for urban areas that would be a resource shared among people, not owned by a single person. It would be a car that you jump in and use when needed, on demand.
About the same time, Clement Gires was studying behavioral economics at École Polytechnique when he wasn’t also working as part of a high-altitude Alpine rescue unit. Clement worked on the famed Vélib’ bicycle sharing program in Paris which encompasses over 18,000 bicycles in 1,200 locations providing well over 100,000 daily rides. Clement brought novel approaches to improve the distribution and utilization of bikes to the program before coming to the U.S. to study Management Science and Engineering at Stanford.
While climbing in Yosemite, John and Clement got to know each other. Initially, they spent time pursuing the electric vehicle John began, but soon realized that the real value of their work was in the underlying technology for sharing, which could be applied to any car.
Local Motion is bringing to market a unique combination of hardware, software, and services that redefine the way fleets of vehicles can be deployed, used, and managed. There are three unique aspects of the business, which come together in an incredible offering:
- Simple design. Open the app on your mobile device, locate a car or just go out to the designated spots and locate a car with a green light visible in the windshield—no reservations required. Walk up to the car, swipe your card key (same one you use for the office) or use your Bluetooth connected phone and the car unlocks and you’re in control. Forget to plug in your electric car and you’ll even get a text message. When you’re done, swipe your key to lock the car and let the system know the car is free.
- Powerful hardware. Underneath the dash is a small box that takes about 20 minutes to install. In the corner of the windshield is an indicator light that lets you know from a distance if the car is free or in use. The hardware works in all cars and offers a range of telemetry for the fleet manager beyond just location. In modern electric cars, the integration is just as easy but even deeper and more full-featured.
- Elegant software. Local Motion brings “consumerization of IT” to fleet management. For the fleet manager, the telematics are presented in a friendly user experience that integrates with your required backend infrastructure.
The folks at Local Motion share a vision for creating the largest network of shared vehicles. Today, customers are already using the product in business and government, but it’s easy to imagine a future where their technology could be used with any car.
Today, we are excited to announce that Andreessen Horowitz is leading a $6M Series A investment in Local Motion. I’m thrilled to join the board of Local Motion with John and Clement as part of my first board partner role with Andreessen Horowitz (see Joining a16z on my Learning by Shipping blog).