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Marseille is getting revved up for dynamic carpooling

Transportation | No comments

par Elsa Sidawy | 09.06.11

A new arrival in France, Green Monkeys is shaking up traditional carpooling. After experimenting in the Geneva area, the service, which is focused on home-office commuting, is descending upon the city of Marseille and claims to offer what is missing today in traditional carpooling: reliability and flexibility.

Sixty. The number of carpooling platforms around the world tightly scrutinized by the founders of Green Monkeys. With this study in mind, the team has been working since 2009 to lay the first bricks of a new car sharing service that is intended primarily for workers with a daily office commute, “the biggest market for carpooling and also the largest source of pollution,” says Sébastien Touchais, Executive Director of Green Monkeys. In general, other platforms reward carpooling by offering their services to companies as part of their official Plans de Déplacement (Transit Plans), projects put into place by employers in France to help reduce the use of individual car use and promote cleaner transport. Green Monkeys uses similar methods, but goes further, instead of approaching each company separately one after another, “we encourage them to think in geographic clusters.” Aimed at short, but inherently more frequent trips in urban zones, the start-up counts on trumping its competitors, thus far focused on long distance commutes.


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A new definition of dynamic carpooling
Users of the platform are first prompted to enter their carpool schedule into the site, according to their working hours. By a complex system of algorithms that took two years to develop, their schedule is in effect shuffled with those of other users. Based on the results, suggestions are made to users in the same geographical area who share similar schedules. Nothing revolutionary so far, except that on Green Monkeys, the driver or passenger will be able to, due to unforeseen circumstances, cancel or modify their reservation without impacting other users. In fact, the start-up is committed to finding an alternative driver for any passenger that would otherwise be left stranded. With just this in mind, can we call it dynamic carpooling? Yes, and then some, asserts the entrepreneur: “More than real time, we are a full-time manager of the entire journey.” Worst-case scenario, the company even agrees to pay a stranded passenger’s taxi fare. A minor financial risk according to the company, considering such a service’s flexibility, “if we do not fully commit, we will not solve the two major criteria of reliability and flexibility that limit the use of carpooling today.

A fixed rate for a flexible service
In terms of its business model, Green Monkeys is compensated based on the actual use of its services. All passengers pay 21 cents per km, of which Green Monkeys collects 3 cents. Each user has a personal account whose input and output of money are managed continuously by the company: a way to avoid the delicate exchange of money from hand to hand. “There are no micro-transactions and it guarantees the payment of each trip,” users are encouraged to report any route modifications at the end to adjust the final payment.

Geneva, then Marseille
After the experiments last year in the city of Geneva, which helped refine the algorithms, Marseille will be in mid-September the first in France to adopt the Green Monkeys solution as part of their PDA (Plan de Déplacement d’Administration; Administration Transit Plan) by promoting the platform to its 11,500 agents. But the entrepreneur is thinking bigger: for him, carpooling is one solution that must be part of a multimodal approach: “it’s essential, we have planned our technological development with this in mind.” The company is ready to open its data and collaborate with public transport operators. Does Green Monkeys have a potentially history-making model? Response in 2012.

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Translated by Genny Cortinovis

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