Via raises $200 million to optimize ride-sharing routes with AI

Transportation startup Via today announced that it has raised $200 million in series E financing, bringing its total raised to over $500 million at a $2.25 billion valuation — more than double its $1 billion valuation in 2017. According to cofounders Oren Shoval and Daniel Ramot, part of the funding will enable Via to expand its efforts around the novel coroanvirus outbreak, which include emergency services and transit network optimization in locations like Berlin, Ohio, and Malt.

Via’s ride-sharing service taps AI to combine multiple passengers or packages headed in the same direction in real time, ostensibly reducing urban congestion and emissions while providing a lower-cost mobility service. It’s available in more than 70 cities in 20 countries, and to date, Via says it has provided over 70 million rides around the world, up from 50 million as of July 2019.

Via first launched in New York City in 2013, but it’s now deployed globally, including in Europe as ViaVan. As of today, the company works with more than 100 partners across municipalities, public transit agencies, transportation operators, corporations, schools, and universities to optimize their transport systems, including the city of West Sacramento, the Los Angeles Metro, Transport for London (TfL), and Sydney’s Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW), and the New York City Department of Education.

Last year, Via announced the launch of a driverless shuttle program in New South Wales, Australia, in partnership with the BusBot project, local bus operator Busways, local government agency Transport for New South Wales, and startup EasyMile. More recently, it launched an on-demand transportation pilot in Sacramento, California, that let customers hail rides from apps and the city’s public transportation department.

Via, like its chief rivals Uber and Lyft, faces an uphill battle as COVID-19 rages on around the world. Earlier this month, it suspended shared rides in areas like New York City and San Francisco in order to prevent infection, a blow to its shared-ride business model. And a report from Edison Trends found that consumer spending on ride-sharing plummeted up to 21% in the seven-day period ending March 16, with further declines likely as business closures and shelter-in-place orders spurred by the coronavirus pandemic continue.

Exor led this latest funding round in Via, with participation from new investors Shell, Macquarie Capital, and Mori Building also participated in the round, as did existing investors Pitango, 83North, Hearst Ventures, Ervington Investments, Planven Ventures, Broadscale Group, and RiverPark Ventures. Noam Ohana, head of Exor Seeds, the early stage investment arm of Exor, will join Via’s board of directors as a part of it.

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