Recently, car sharing companies Amber and MyWheels merged. Their umbrella company, the Sharing Group, is now the largest provider of shared cars in the Netherlands. Together, the companies form “the mobility system of the future”, according to the CEO of MyWheels, Karina Tiekstra.
“The biggest difference compared to two years ago is that our proposition has only become stronger”, explains Amber’s business development manager Martijn Prins. “All of the major companies are interested in talking to us. Companies are all working on reducing their CO2 emissions, adapting to the new situation of working from home, and saving costs. Our concept fits in perfectly with that.”
A quick refresher. Amber is a tech company active in corporate shared transport. The founders of the company are three former students from the Eindhoven University of Technology who, after building two electric cars at the university, wanted to see if they could make the technology accessible to a wider public. Amber now provides flexible mobility solutions for shared car concepts to, among others, the Dutch province of Brabant, a.s.r. and ABN Amro. Their goal is simple: offer shared cars that, thanks to AI software and personal service, are always on hand when people need them.
One Amber for twenty cars
With this service for the corporate world, Amber wants to move away from a situation where every employee has one car. “Seventy percent of people in the Netherlands live and work in the city. It gets too busy there and the air is too polluted. Fewer cars will help make the city quieter and cleaner. Passenger cars are stationary 96 percent of the time,” says Prins. In the near future, each Amber should be able to replace twenty cars, at the moment there are just six.
“The biggest difference compared to two years ago is that our proposition has only become stronger. All major companies are interested in talking to us.”Martijn Prins
Amber has not been sitting idly by. For example, the planning algorithm has been further developed. This tool solves the puzzle of available cars, availability of fleet operators, preferred departure times, and locations for each booking to be able to plan as many trips as possible. “Processing data takes time. We are getting more and more Ambers, more users and more new cities. So that puzzle is getting more and more complex. Our technical goal is to create a new schedule every minute.”
But data also provides better insights. Where and when the most demand occurs, for a start. “We are constantly relocating cars, so we can respond effectively to that. Imagine that at around three o’clock in the afternoon, non-reserved Ambers near locations A and B are often taken for a spontaneous trip, while cars around location C are not. Let’s assume that a fleet operator is in the vicinity of these locations, it is a simple matter to drive available cars near C to a location between A and B.”
Automatic parking coverage
Last year, the company also developed a tool for complete automatic parking coverage. This tool registers the license plate of an Amber as soon as it enters a new parking zone. The system then registers the car with the appropriate permit. When leaving, the car is instantly signed out again.
‘It feels like your own car’
Whereas two years ago the company was still working with hubs and set parking spaces, they now have service areas in largest cities in the Netherlands. “You can leave your Amber anywhere and have it delivered to a service area. My ultimate Amber experience is when I drive from Eindhoven with friends to an event in Amsterdam. There we park the car, lock it and are all set. This makes it feel like your own car. And that feeling is indispensable, if people are to give up their own (lease) car.
Prins is not yet able to say much about what the merger with MyWheels will actually mean for Amber. “We need more time than two months for that. On the other hand, he does not have to think long about where the company will be in five years’ time. “Amber and MyWheels will not only be market leader in the Netherlands, but in the whole of Europe. If we can serve a city like Eindhoven, why not Antwerp? It’s exactly the same thing. But, we are very forward-thinking in the Netherlands when it comes to charging infrastructure. Let’s hope that they will soon make steps in other countries in that respect as well.”