New Zealand ride sharing service Chariot describes itself as ‘fundamentally different from other ride sharing services such as Uber that use a profit-seeking model for drivers’.
Chariot operates under a cost-sharing agreement that is exempt under the Land Transportation Rule and its drivers are community members who are only reimbursed by passengers for car maintenance, fuel costs and wear and tear – not for their driving services. The driver and passenger agree on fares upfront using the Chariot app.
Here, Chariot’s CEO Dr Thomas Kiefer spends 10 minutes with OMS to tell us everything we need to know about New Zealand’s new ride sharing service.
Tell us about Chariot in 15 words or less…
Chariot is an app that connects people who are travelling in the same direction by car.
How does it work?
Drivers and passengers will be primary matched based on their origin, destination and time. Our waypoint matching algorithm will also match passengers with drivers on any overlapping trip stretches on a common route, for example a ride from Auckland to Wellington will also match with Hamilton to Palmerston North, etc. on long-haul (intercity) trips or Upper Hutt to Miramar will match with Thorndon to Haitaitai, etc.
- Request rides
- Search directories
- Browse requests
- List rides
Chariot allows you to share rides with people who are sharing the same travel routes with you. So you can either give them a ride and be reimbursed for some of your costs – or jump in with someone else who’s already going where you want to go.
The following kinds of rides are facilitated by Chariot:
- Intercity / long-haul trips (i.e. Palmerston North to Wellington)
- Commuting / carpooling, (i.e. recurring trips to works, uni or school)
- Inner city / short-haul, one-off trips (i.e. from/to event, city, shopping, night out, etc.)
Who is behind it?
Chariot is co-founded and managed by myself, Dr. Thomas Kiefer, MBA (Chief Executive Officer) and Milan Reinartz, BDES (Chief Product Officer), and supported by a group of eight experienced, talented and passionate people covering everything from development, design, marketing and finance.
The team is young, fearless and believes in the company’s mission. We have commitment and relentless passion; our belief and focus in doing something good for New Zealand and its communities gives us the edge and necessary motivation to succeed. We are also nimble and ambitious! This has so far allowed us to achieve a lot with little resource.
How did the idea come about?
Chariot was started in early 2014 out of my frustration from spending too much time in traffic jams on my way home instead of playing with my daughter. To add to the frustration, I was constantly missing meetings or late when travelling by car due to the increasing amount of traffic congestion. The need for a ride sharing application was reinforced when no affordable transportation was available after having drinks with suppliers and friends. I thought, “How cool would it be, just tap on your screen to figure out who is driving in the same direction or even close to your home and ask for a lift?” Chariot was born and the team crafted shortly after.
What’s your background and how did you get to this point?
I have a strong technical and business background having worked for numerous internationally recognised companies across Europe and Asia before moving to New Zealand. I held various senior management roles that enabled me to obtain a sound understanding of corporate business acumen, finance, people and stakeholder management. Loaded with academic achievements, such as BA (Hons) Engineering, MBA and a PhD, I believe I am well equipped to steer the ship and keep everyone engaged and motivated to build a thriving business.
Having a great idea that can resolve a common infrastructure problem but no team to execute was rather difficult to start with. I approached my co-founder Milan Reinartz in April 2014 to help build a team to execute the plan. He has a proven track record and vast experience in the start-up space as well as running his own start-up successfully. With his help and network we formed the team as it stands today.
From an initial idea and a few discussions with Milan, to 10 active team members today, who have spent thousands of hours outside their day job – after hours, nights and weekends, we have come a long way.
Tell us more about your journey so far…
We started by mapping out the user workflow, then analysed hundreds of completed questionnaires, built a live wireframe (prototype) which was tested in the field to identify improvements, and then spent many hours designing and fine tuning 100+ app screens between two designers and a user experience expert, resulting in a state of the art user interface and user experience.
From here we started building the app with our team of four developers who are now well across the technology management, services integration, database, API and front end development.
Our website promotes pre-registrations and has already seen just about 1,000 people sign up to get an email when the app launches. A user acquisition experiment of testing various styles of messaging and designs (conducted on Facebook for over five days) resulted in approximately 700 pre-registrations and 1,000+ Facebook likes. The experiment highlighted two facts. Firstly, our creative was more than twice as successful as we had expected and provided us with confidence to continue with our current marketing strategy of focusing on performance media (e.g. Facebook). Secondly, there is a huge demand in the market and appetite for our app that confirms our previous surveys.
How have you funded Chariot so far?
We recently successfully raised $45k in seed funding via our Equity Crowdfunding campaign on PledgeMe. Here is the link to our equity campaign:
With this capital raising we are expecting the rate of pre-registrations and post-launch sign-ups to dramatically increase in the months to come.
Currently the hybrid mobile app is in the final phases of build; the database and the API are ready and are now being integrated into the actual mobile apps. An alpha release is anticipated in June 2015 and pre-registered users will be invited for testing purposes.
In an ideal world what effect is Chariot going to have on the way people get around in New Zealand?
Chariot is likely to “disrupt” public transport and taxi services; and of course Chariot will help the environment — it will take cars off the road by encouraging people to share their vehicles. In some areas Chariot may be replacing public transport.
For people who live in the city without owning a car Chariot is an affordable alternative to get easily around town; it can be even cheaper than owing a car. So, what if people own a car and now have the opportunity to rent out empty seats in their car for the 80% of the time they’re travelling alone? They can get back portions of their travel and vehicle costs by renting out up to three of their spare seats.
Chariot also helps to ease the huge expense that mass transportation takes on the environment. Personal vehicles causing a good percentage of CO2 emissions and almost all of these cars are travelling with empty seats. By filling those seats with friendly rideshare partners we will also be getting the benefits of creating new social bonds.
Chariot will form communities, and communities are an essential part of any society that wants to improve the quality of life of everyone involved. People using Chariot may even find love on joint trips, or at least make new friends.
We believe that Chariot is going to help building a stronger economy, keeping New Zealand green, and a more sustainable and efficient transportation system. Such positive effect will be present in every part of people’s life; it will improve their financial situation, their relationships, and the air they breathe. Sharing of goods and commodities is the future, and the future is looking bright.
How will you make sure you keep your users safe?
The application will offer a high level of security, one of Chariot’s main focus points, in the form of peer reviews, the ability to share the details of any ride with a nominated emergency contact and general background checks on all users. Valid credit or debit cards are also a must to use the app, providing further identification mechanisms and safety.
Will there be any checks on the vehicles being used by users?
All vehicles used by drivers must be ‘fit for purpose’. Chariot will ensure that all vehicles have current Warrant of Fitness (WoF), are registered and licenced at New Zealand Transportation Agency (NZTA).
What about driver license checks?
Each driver must have a current drivers licence. (Passengers must have a current photo ID).
What’s so great about ride-sharing?
Economically speaking it’s the effective use of not fully utilised assets, such as personal cars. It’s a social, convenient and cost effective (affordable) transportation, environmentally friendly (carbon footprint reduction) and reduces traffic congestion.
Can people make money out of it?
Drivers only recover costs for vehicle maintenance, fuel and reasonable wear and tear. Chariot’s drivers will operate under a genuine cost-sharing arrangement as part of an exempt passenger transport service.
In contrast to employed drivers, our drivers are simply members of the public who are sharing the cost of their journey with passengers they meet through our app. They will not receive compensation for their time. Our fares are agreed upfront, unlike companies like Uber who present the fare at the end of the ride. Our app uses Google Maps to measure trip distance and to calculate the amount a passenger is required to contribute as opposed to the use of a taximeter.
Our platform promotes a cost-sharing model as opposed to a profit-seeking model. Chariot is a bit like asking for your friends to share the cost of your journey but in a controlled and safe environment. If passengers are carried for hire or reward (profit-seeking model / making a living out of it) the driver is required to hold a “P” endorsement (Passenger transportation service licence).
The Chariot Application is offered free of charge and strictly as a convenience and service to users seeking carpooling or ride sharing matches. Use of the application is voluntary and entirely at the discretion of registered users.
How often do you ride-share?
On average I share my trips 2–3 times per week, either with family, friends, colleagues, clients or contractors. Once Chariot has launched this will become my main mode of transport both as a passengers and as a driver, depending on the situation.