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Is the Rideshare Industry’s Tech Revolution Over? Alejandro Betancourt Says More Changes Are in Store



image of a rideshare driver with a passenger in the back to represent Alejandro Betancourt's company Auro Travel

In 2016, Europe comprised more than 50% of the global ridesharing market, following a 2 million increase in users between 2006 and 2014, according to data from Deloitte.

However, while the concept had caught on in various countries — such as Germany, which, at the time, was Europe’s biggest market for the service — ridesharing options had yet to arrive in some other locations.

Anticipating a strong demand for the network-based car service would soon exist in Spain, in 2017, a newly formed company called Auro Travel began obtaining the transportation licenses the country’s government requires for operation.

Traditionally, that type of authorization has been doled out in limited quantities. As data from the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows, the number of taxi licenses in Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia remained essentially unchanged between 1995 and 2016.

When established rideshare companies such as Uber expressed an interest in providing services in Spain, Auro Travel was well-positioned to supply them with the necessary licenses.

“We understood that it was a matter of time before they entered the Spanish market,” says Auro Travel co-founder Alejandro Betancourt. “We started to invest in acquiring these licenses in anticipation. We decided to focus our energy into providing that as a service for the big platforms, because we understood there was value to be created in that part of the chain. We’ve been successful at it, and it’s continued to grow.”

From Requirements to Roadways

In addition to providing licenses to companies, Auro Travel now operates its own fleet of more than 2,000 vehicles. The company offers rideshare services on third-party platforms’ behalf —  and directly to customers who book trips through a GPS-based app that utilizes Auro Travel’s proprietary software.

As the hired transport vehicle industry has grown in the country, passengers’ expectations surrounding wait times and other factors, according to Betancourt, have risen.

“There’s been more competition, causing margins to tighten; and there have been more requests for quality,” he says. “As you move from an emerging market into a developed market, the expectation of the customer is perfection of the service. That’s what we’ve been very, very good at; and we’re demanded highly because we are regarded as one of the best providers of this service in Spain.”

Drivers who earn better scores through the company’s app-based rating system are given more hours and desirable zones; ensuring premium, efficient service in areas that have a high demand for rides has helped Auro Travel boost its credibility, Alejandro Betancourt says.

“We make sure the cars are in top shape and that the drivers are well-trained,” he says. “That makes customers understand we’re a big player within the market. If we can differentiate enough that the customer demands our level of service, then we have a better position within the market.”

Quality isn’t the only element consumers are interested in. A number also place an emphasis on environmentally responsible operations — a survey conducted by consulting firm Simon-Kucher & Partners, in fact, found sustainability is an important purchasing condition for 60% of consumers on a global scale.

“That’s where the world is slowly tilting,” Betancourt says. “When Europe has made the commitment to curb the long term use of gasoline cars; it sends the message that any company providing a service within this market has to make a conscious effort to adapt — because it’s not only the regulators setting a target, but the population. The next generation is demanding an environmentally conscious service. We are very conscious about that, and we believe it’s the right move.”

To address the demand for sustainability, some rideshare industry members are turning to tech advancements such as strategic placement to reduce the distance that’s required to reach customers and obtaining hybrid cars that will help minimize fuel use — two considerations Auro Travel is exploring.

“We always try to shift into new technologies that can be more environmentally conscious,” Alejandro Betancourt says. “It’s something we’re doing because it’s part of our culture, but also it’s something that our customers demand. You’ve got to provide the right product and part of providing the right product is being environmentally conscious.”

A Driving Force

Rideshare-related technology has undeniably disrupted the overall mobility market in recent years. As its evolution continues, Alejandro Betancourt predicts emerging functionalities like artificial intelligence may eventually influence end users’ rideshare experience, in areas ranging from customer service to possibly even automated vehicle operation.

“We’re developing new areas of cooperation,” Alejandro Betancourt says. “For example, we have huge contracts with Uber Eats, where we provide logistics and delivery and last mile-services. We have sustained very large growth over the last two years; we’re very happy with that. We are finding ways to expand the use of our current infrastructure — also, we’re looking to see how we can expand into larger fleets and repair shops. We provide services and manage fleets for third-parties; we keep looking to concentrate our efforts in these divisions”

As new solutions become available, providers will need to adapt — or risk falling dangerously behind. “We today live in the digital revolution,” Betancourt says. “It’s a constant change; and you’ve got to keep up.”

With the advent of technologies like AI, coupled with the ever-increasing amount of ways to reach consumers, Alejandro Betancourt — who has invested in oil, retail and other sectors — expects competition to increase within the rideshare industry in the future.

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