Taxi-hailing company Free Now intends to allow users in Ireland to access shared micromobility services such as electric bikes and e-scooters via third parties through its app from next year.
The company, which carried more than 20 million passengers in 2019, is also considering including access to car sharing services such as GoCar and Yuko on its platform as it seeks to expand its offerings locally.
Free Now already has partnerships with third-party providers such as e-scooter sharing service Voi in some markets, and country manager Niall Carson said it is now looking at providing something similar in Ireland.
The news comes as Mr Carson said the company had enjoyed a strong run-up to Christmas, after seeing passenger numbers slump by as much as 86 per cent in April due to Covid restrictions.
He said Free Now is in talks with a number of third-party providers about the provision of new services on its platform, including a well-known car-sharing company.
Free Now recorded record turnover of €22.2 million in 2019, up 30 per cent on the previous year. It also reported pretax losses of €2.9 million, however, up from €2.2 million in 2018 due to a big hike in expenditure related to its rebrand from MyTaxi.
“We carried over 20 million passengers in 2019, but this year the numbers are back considerably due to Covid, with our airport business in particular being badly hit. During the run-up to Christmas we have been doing almost 250,000 rides a week, but I expect numbers to drop back to around 60 per cent year on year with the reimposition of level 5 restrictions,” said Mr Carson.
“We have had an unexpected level of new app downloads in December and also a huge number of new passengers started to use the app as they ventured out after the easing of restrictions,” he added.
The company faced criticism after rebranding for the third time locally but Mr Carson said that as more services were added to its platform the rebrand makes more sense.
“The reason why we opted to remove the word taxi from our name is because we are now essentially a mobility-as-a-service provider and I think that it is becoming clearer as we offer other travel options,” he said.
“An additional benefit is that more services actually lead to more taxis being taken for journeys which are that big longer.”
Free Now’s expansion comes as legislation to allow e-scooters on Irish roads is expected to be passed shortly.
"In terms of e-scooters, currently we are working with partners such as Voi in some European markets, for example Germany, in Ireland we are very open to work with partners and are in conversation with Irish-founded Zipp Mobility and Zeus Scooters, " said Mr Carson.
The company currently has about 14,000 taxi drivers on its books, and is optimistic that passenger numbers will rebound after Covid restrictions are eased next year.
“I think we’ll have more new passenger conversions as we come out of lockdown and as people begin to travel around much more,” said Mr Carson.