Three-years in the making, iCars unveiled its private transportation on-demand app and reservation system at GBTA last week.
ORLANDO — Tucked into a corner on the exhibit floor at last week’s annual Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Convention, the newly launched San Francisco-based iCars attracted a lot of attention and buzz with the launch of its new cutting-edge, on-demand and pre-booked reservation system for the private transportation industry.
The new company, launched by Gary Bauer, a 25-year industry veteran and owner of Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation, debuted in San Francisco a few months ago and already is booking an average of 300-400 runs per day (73% on demand; 28% future reservations), and is planning an aggressive launch in major U.S. cities in the upcoming months now that it has been successfully tried and tested in the Bay region.
Taking three years to build at a cost of $3 million, Bauer, CEO of iCars — which is a totally separate company to serve the entire limousine industry — said he realized years ago the industry had to compete “head-on” with Uber and Lyft with its own on demand technology to survive.
“We built it because our office is blocks away from Uber and Lyft in San Francisco and we knew that our industry had to compete in the on-demand world or the industry wouldn’t survive because the TNCs would only get stronger in the corporate market and put us all out of business," said Bauer.
Launched with more than 10 Bay area operators on board, 10 hotel clients and a partnership with Limos.com that adds more than 1,000 operators nationwide to the on-demand system, as well as Limos.com clients, iCars is adding more operators every day as word spreads of the new technology. Bauer said the company plans to roll out iCars to major U.S cities in the next few months with international expansion targeted as well.
According to company General Manager Daniel Shifrin, iCars offers high-end professional on-demand service provided by operators that meet, or exceed, all of the requirements the limousine industry complies with — commercial insurance, employee status, driver drug testing and background checks, vehicle maintenance and safety requirements — and a “laundry list of stringent items operators need to comply with in order to come on board,” said Shifrin.
He added that iCars is the only app that is being offered “non-exclusively to the entire universe of operators and travel buyers.”
The iCars technology provides:
- On demand and future reservations.
- Third-party bookings for administrators and concierges.
- Group bookings and passenger management.
- Private network for an operator’s existing clients.
- Route and vehicle optimization.
- Automated dispatch.
Shifrin explained that operator network members can create their own private networks of clients and negotiate their own unique rates. Regarding the on-demand aspect of the service, open market rates will be set based on Uber Black and Uber SUV rates.
There will be no surge pricing.
“Our algorithm will be based on Uber Black competitive pricing,” said Shifrin, but stressed those operators and their preferred clients can negotiate separate rates, based on point-to-point runs or time and mileage, or other factors.
Bauer explained that iCars partner companies are traditional limousine companies but individuals can sign on as long as they “meet our requirements.”
The iCars technology also incorporates operator fleet management capabilities so operators and iCars know which vehicles are pre-booked or available for on-demand service, giving the system intelligent real-time management for both on-demand availability and to book future reservations.
The transition works like this, Shifrin explains: “There is a small transaction fee applied to each run for using the iCars app inside a client book and/or network. There is a 20% commission charged for rides pushed to a driver from the retail market if the lead is produced by iCars and sent to the car service. This is the same model as Uber and Lyft and our retail, or ‘open’ rates are competitive to them as well.”
Shifrin added that the company is establishing “strategic alliances” with travel agencies, hotels, meeting professionals and online aggregators. “We have a long list of synergistic affiliations we are targeting to partner with including tech companies within the industry," he noted, adding, “Now that the product is fully complete, our next action is to take it to market with an extremely confident advertising and branding approach.”
Go to iCars for more information, and LCT magazine will hold a web seminar, Tuesday, Aug. 18 that will further explain iCars as well as provide a product demonstration. We’ll announce registration and more details in upcoming e-newsletters.