The rise of ride-sharing services and self-driving cars has allowed technology companies to muscle their way into the automotive industry, and many automakers aren’t happy about these foreign companies encroaching on their territory. Most major automakers have already started pouring billions of dollars into developing self-driving technology of their own in order to combat the likes of Google, but only a handful are fighting back on the ride-sharing front as well. One of those automakers is BMW, which launched its own car-sharing service, known as ReachNow, in the United States on Friday, which isn’t quite the same as Lyft or Uber, but it’s in the same vein.
BMW just launched a new car-sharing service called ReachNow that will enable Seattle residents to access 400 cars that they can pick up and drop off pretty much wherever they like, as long as that’s not on the outskirts of town. Eventually, the idea is to expand into cities nationwide. BMW’s isn’t a revolutionary concept at this point. Daimler has a similar service called Car2Go that’s available in New York, Austin, Minneapolis, Vancouver and Portland, Oregon. Audi also launched a car-sharing service in San Francisco and Miami a few months ago called Audi at Home (though it’s currently limited to residents of one luxury condominium complex in each city). BMW itself is already operating car-sharing services in 10 European cities, where Daimler is also making a big push. Not only are these services better for cities, but it looks like they can produce more revenue for the car companies than selling cars, too. What’s perhaps most interesting about this new ReachNow initiative is how BMW is getting it up and running: through a partnership with RideCell, a San Francisco-based company whose software serves as a kind of high-tech traffic controller. The company — formed in Atlanta by Georgia Tech grads who moved to San Francisco for Y Combinator in 2011 — describes itself as the operating system of numerous car-sharing, ride-sharing, fixed-route and dynamic transit services.