12 November 2019 (BERLIN) — ViaVan, Europe’s leader in public mobility solutions, and Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), are honored as the second-place finalist in the mobility category of the prestigious German Federal Inclusion Awards. The award, for the BerlKönig on-demand shared ride service in Berlin, recognizes that smart, on-demand technology and purpose-built solutions can support the expansion of inclusive mobility offerings as part of public transit.
The BerlKönig was designed to offer a superior and seamless experience for riders with and without disabilities in one shared ride ecosystem. ViaVan worked closely with BVG and members of the community of people with disabilities to build features into both the rider app and vehicle fleet that would facilitate a premium rider experience for all.
“ViaVan is dedicated to evolving public mobility across Europe, and this includes using our technology to expand access to efficient, affordable and on-demand mobility for all riders, including those with disabilities,” said Chris Snyder, ViaVan CEO. “Technology has the capacity to revolutionize public transit, even where it is already very strong, in a way that significantly increases the quality of life for passengers. We are hopeful that the recognition of the BerlKönig as a top-tier on-demand service for inclusivity will raise the bar for other cities and public transit agencies to follow.”
Paratransit programs and dial-a-ride services are traditionally expensive to operate, and cities are looking to ViaVan to provide solutions that create a new form of inclusive transit through on-demand rides.
ViaVan’s technology offers flexibility for riders with a wheelchair, matching these riders in real time to a wheelchair-accessible vehicle and service at the tap of a button. This is a significant shift for riders who, in many cases, were previously required to book transportation two to three days in advance. Wheelchair-accessible vehicles were included in the fleet at launch, and have expanded in number during the first year of service.
“In the past I had to order a wheelchair accessible service three days in advance if I wanted to get somewhere. BerlKönig allows me to participate in life spontaneously— and I can even ride together with friends. A milestone for inclusion,” said Raul Krauthausen, inclusion activist.
Riders are able to elect accessibility needs and upload documentation directly in the BerlKönig app. When a driver is paired with a disabled rider, the app issues an alert before pickup to ensure the driver is aware that the passenger may need additional assistance. From ongoing conversations and workshops with riders, ViaVan identified and incorporated key inclusivity and accessibility features into the service, including automatic free rides for up to one caretaker, as well as an optimized booking experience for riders with visual impairment that utilizes the mobile app's talkback and voiceover capabilities. An extended booking period on the app’s proposal screen has also been implemented to provide these riders with the necessary time to select a ride.
“I was happy to find that the BerlKönig app was usable for riders with visual impairment from the start. On top, my feedback was taken seriously: After taking my first ride I sent an email outlining potential improvements and was promptly invited to share my experience. Many of my recommended features have been implemented since. A great feeling!” said Hauke Brandt, a rider with visual impairment.
In addition to the BerlKönig service with BVG, Via, the parent company of ViaVan, partnered in August 2019 with public transit operator Keolis in Tours, France to launch Fil Blanc, a revolutionary new approach to providing wheelchair-accessible paratransit. The service allows riders in need of an accessible vehicle to book door-to-door service on-demand or as a pre-scheduled ride up to three weeks in advance.
ViaVan is the leading provider of innovative on-demand shared transit services in Europe. ViaVan was founded in 2017 as a joint venture between Via, the world’s most sophisticated developer of dynamic shared rides technology, and Mercedes-Benz Vans, the leading manufacturer of iconic passenger and cargo vans. Working closely with cities and public transit operators, ViaVan powers dynamic mobility services that complement existing transportation infrastructure. ViaVan currently operates direct-to-consumer services in London, Amsterdam, Berlin and Milton Keynes. Through their partnership, Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via are also collaborating on the development of advanced mobility solutions, from sensor technology, to electric vehicle fleet management, to autonomous driving. Globally, ViaVan and parent company Via have been tapped by cities and transportation players to help re-engineer public transit from a regulated system of rigid routes and schedules to a fully dynamic, on-demand network. With more than 90 launched and pending deployments in 20 countries, Via and ViaVan have provided more than 70 million rides to date.
Photo Source: BMAS/Maelsa