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iCars President Daniel Shifrin unveils iCars to corporate travel executives at the Global Business Travel Association convention in July in Orlando.
iCars is a new on-demand and future reservation network of certified chauffeured transportation companies working together to provide a higher level of service and security for the traveling public.
Launched and tested in San Francisco seven months ago, the company is moving fast to roll out its service to major U.S. markets to counter on-demand transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft. The iCars platform is designed to enable limousine operators to serve their clients on a private network, while offering new revenue opportunities on the open market through its on demand app system.
LCT sat down with iCars President Daniel Shifrin to further explain the new service and how it works for participating operators. Shifrin, who has a long history in ground transportation, started his career in financial services. Then, in cooperation with 3M, he invented the Autowrap, a product that is used to promote products and services by wrapping vehicles in advertising. After a successful exit, Shifrin joined Zipcar, where he was responsible for launching markets across North America and developing its B2B product. After the company went public and was bought by Avis, Shifrin joined Limos.com where he developed its B2B platform and focused on Fortune 500 companies.
LCT: Tell us about the company’s mission and growth plans since your soft launch in San Francisco several months ago?
Shifrin: We’re trying to help operators bridge the evolution from the traditional way of doing business to the new wave of consumer ground transportation services. As far as our traction, we launched with more than 10 San Francisco Bay area operators and 10 hotel clients. We are signing on enough operators to develop initial vehicle inventory to roll out our open market product in the top 10 U.S. markets. Then we’ll start marketing campaigns to announce the on-demand service. Initial cities include Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, followed by Miami, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, Orlando and Las Vegas.
LCT: Who are iCars’ partners?
Shifrin: Like so many other limousine industry-generated technologies, such as FASTTRAK and TripTracker, for example, iCars is the brainchild of an experienced operator, Gary Bauer, who started Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation in San Francisco in 1989. We have a partnership with Limos.com, which has a loyal following of more than 1,000 operators. As we all know, Limos.com is a lead generation online tool. The leads are harvested from the retail travel space and pushed to chauffeured transportation companies linked to Limos.com. Its reach is far and wide, and now our partnership brings iCars technology to all of those Limos.com clients nationwide.
LCT: Please explain how the iCars platform works.
Shifrin: The iCars platform is designed to enable operators to service their clients and generate new opportunities on the open market. We’re not requiring operators to change the way they do business. Our private network allows them to do exactly what they have been doing. iCars operators can create their own private networks of clients and negotiated rates, making the platform easy to integrate with their operations. The on-demand aspect of the service is based on open market rates that will be set based on Uber Black and Uber SUV rates city by city. The open rate is non-negotiable with no surge pricing. Also, depending on the city, the open rate could be slightly higher or lower than the TNC rate, but will usually be better than anything out there when considering the quality of vehicles and drivers.
LCT: What are some of the main insights operators need to know about iCars?
Shifrin: In no way does the iCars system replace an operator’s back-end system because this is a driver and client app. But we have to give them a way to manage it all and assign rides by request from operators in the network. The process works with back-end systems that manage an operator’s fleet-sharing information back and forth among systems.
The product enables operators to choose if they want an open market request to go directly to the driver or through their back-end system. The ride will pop up in the account of the operator, who can assign from dispatch. It’s up to the operator how to control it. 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. That gives the system intelligent real-time management for on-demand availability and to book future reservations. Operators have the option to turn on or off the on-demand app depending on their fleet availability.