Fleet balancing for car-sharing sector

New innovators: Good Travel Software

Peter Soutter’s Good Travel Software is about to launch a yield management and fleet-balancing system

Peter Soutter’s Good Travel Software is about to launch a yield management and fleet-balancing system

 

OLIVE KEOGH

Car sharing is in its infancy here but it’s big business in other countries where car manufacturers such as BMW and Mercedes operate their own fleets of shared vehicles. Former film and TV executive, Peter Soutter, became familiar with car sharing while working in Australia. He was impressed by the concept, though less so by the shortcomings he experienced when using the service.

“Car share companies typically have problems around balancing their fleets and making sure their cars are in areas of high demand when they are needed,” he says. “If the balance isn’t right you find yourself looking for a car and there are none available. I became very interested in how to address this problem and first started thinking about a solution back in 2011.”

Three years on Soutter’s company, Good Travel Software, is about to launch Drop Car, a yield management and fleet-balancing system aimed at the international car-share market. “I thought car sharing could be an incredible service but it needed a number of different elements working together such as fleet balancing, one-way bookings and a dynamic pricing model to become really successful. We are the first company in the world to offer yield management and fleet-balancing solutions to the car-share industry,” he says.

Soutter says the company has solved the troublesome issues by creating demand prediction and dynamic pricing models. Demand prediction takes hundreds of factors into account from bad weather to events likely to draw crowds and disrupt traffic. Dynamic pricing means varying the cost of the hire according to the company’s needs.

For example, it may charge €5 for a commute from the suburbs to a centre city location. But if the company then wants its car taken back to the suburbs in a cost-effective way it may offer the return drive at €1 as an incentive.

Critical to getting Drop Car from a bright idea to a market-ready product was a tie-up with Trinity College Dublin. “I approached Trinity with the idea and began developing the software with them through innovation vouchers from Enterprise Ireland, ” Soutter says. “Professor Simon Wilson, head of the department of statistics, subsequently became a co-founder of the company and leads the development of our products.”

Soutter gave up his job two years ago to go full-time into developing Drop Car. He has participated in the Launchpad programme run by the National Digital Research Centre and the business has also received funding from Enterprise Ireland under its competitive start programme. He estimates the cost of developing the software that underpins the company’s operations at about €300,000.

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“The car-share market in Ireland is currently small although Go Car are doing a great job of raising awareness about car sharing,” Soutter says.

“Our major potential markets are the big operators in Germany, the USA, France and the UK. It’s a rapidly expanding sector with all of the major car manufacturers and car rental companies moving into the space. There are a few large software providers in the car-sharing space but we are the first with yield management and fleet balancing. Through Wayfarer we can also offer a complete booking system that provides all of the processes necessary to running a car-share business.”

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