A sunny afternoon in the Sicilian municipality of Catania: the city squares – surrounded by historical buildings – are bustling with activity and espressos are served at café tables, while the beautiful city at the foot of Mount Etna is filled with boisterous laughter and lively discussions. For Catania’s inhabitants, this is a familiar daily picture. To those who have to go by car, however, the city appears in a very different light. Blochin Cuius, the managing director of MVMANT (that is to say: movemant), thinks back to his time as a student in Catania: “Driving a car here is pure torture”, is how the Italian comments on the traffic situation in his native city. Above all, he regrets that there are so few passengers per vehicle. And this is not unique to Sicily. “The global average is 1.2 people per car”, Cuius explains with concern. He came to the conclusion that things could not remain this way.
In Mirabella Imbaccari, a small village in Sicily, a viable solution to this problem had been found when the founders of MVMANT were only children. “There were very few private cars there and public transport was extremely rare. That gap was filled by local taxi drivers”, Blochin Cuius remembers. The taxi drivers offered a kind of modified taxi service. As they knew everybody in the village and were aware who had to go where to and when, they were able to offer an early form of what later became known as “shared mobility” services. Always using the best possible route, they transported many people as possible in their taxis, thereby reducing per capita pollutant emissions. With MVMANT, the Italians wanted to take advantage of this method by recreating it in modern form.
MVMANT took an important step as a participant in the programme “Dubai Future Accelerators”. More than 2,200 companies had applied to join forces with the Dubai Government to develop new technologies, strategies and concepts. In the end, not more than three projects were implemented. The project initiated by Blochin Cuius is the most successful one to date. MVMANT uses artificial intelligence to cleverly combine enquiries by passengers so that as many people as possible can ride in their Sprinter. The technology behind the concept is designed to avoid unprofitable routes and minimize per capita pollutant emissions. In Dubai, the service supports many of the world’s leading technology companies whose employees benefit from flexible routes and short waiting times.
Even during the piloting phase in Ragusa, Sicily, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter proved to be the ideal partner for the innovative company. Managing director Cuius raves about the high-quality materials and the workmanship: “The high degree of convenience and the low noise level in the interior of the Sprinter are particularly appealing to our clients in Dubai.” Furthermore, our Mercedes-Benz Sprinters convey a certain prestige, a fact that plays a major role for many passengers. As they are equipped with 19 seats, there is plenty of space and this enhances the efficiency of the service. It was originally planned to use Sprinters with just eight seats, but as luck would have it, the larger versions were available more quickly. This coincidence ultimately turned out to be a real godsend for the Italian company whose service is highly frequented in the desert city of Dubai.
Like any other transport solution, this shared mobility offer requires skilled drivers. In the modern and reliable Sprinter, such drivers will find everything their heart desires. “Our team of drivers was thrilled, and after having driven the Sprinter, it would have been very difficult for them to change to another vehicle”, says MVMANT’s managing director Cuius. Lots of comfort and ergonomic seats are of great importance not only for the passengers. As the drivers spend a lot of time behind the wheel, they are particularly happy about the high degree of comfort in the Sprinter. Moreover, the vehicles offer numerous opportunities for personalisation. They can be adapted to virtually the most situation. What is more, thanks to the worldwide assistance offered by Mercedes-Benz, there is always a kind of “guardian angel” available with a mobile workshop and spare parts on site.
MVMANT’s most important goal for the future is consistent with its guiding principle: A little goes a long way. “We believe that the mobility of the future is mobility as a service”, Cuius predicts. “As soon as autonomous driving has become incorporated into the world of transport, private cars will be relegated to a niche existence, the congenial Italian adds.” Since unprofitable transport solutions are still to be found all over the world and there are still challenges on the first as well as the last mile, Cuius sees potential for the implementation of such a mobility concept in many cities. In close collaboration with scientists from the University of Catania, the Italian company continues to work on the improvement of their software. However, their intention is not to replace the taxi industry, but to become part of the mobility-on-demand ecosystem alongside it. “In Venice we have shown that fair conditions and intelligent division of labour will help taxi drivers to become part of this ecosystem”, Cuius explains.