Volkswagen will this weekend conduct a pilot test for its car-sharing mobility solution before the official launch in January next year, The New Times has learned.
The German car-marker opened its car assembling plant in Rwanda in June this year with plans to roll out a mobility solution.
The New Times understands that Volkswagen mobility solution is undergoing technical testing at the moment. The company will be conducting the tests in some selected places around Kigali city and that probably explains the increasing presence of new VW vehicles on the city roads.
During the testing phase, only invited drivers can access the VW mobility App.
According to sources, the pricing is expected to be competitive, giving an example of a rider from City Center to Kigali Convention Center costing under Rwf3,000 for the smaller cars, and less than Rwf10,000 for the SUVs. Even the smaller cars will have different prices with the Polo being the cheapest.
However, it is not yet clear if the prices are promotional or for the test phase only.
For the self-drive, the company is in the process of finalising various pick-up/drop-off points across the city where clients can pick up a car or return it as well as pay for the services.
Volkswagen declined to comment on the developments.
The Mobility Solution approach works in a way that people can book a car by using a mobile phone application, use it and return it afterward. The users are charged depending on the time they use the car or the distance covered.
The second aspect of the mobility solution involves a ride-hailing service with about 150 vehicles planned in the medium term.
The mobility solution application and tech solutions are being developed by a local tech startup – Awesomity - which beat international firms to secure the tender which is part of the company's initial USD 20 million investment in Rwanda.
In January this year, Thomas Schafer, the Chief Executive of Volkswagen South Africa, told journalists that “towards the end of 2018 or early 2019,” the firm would roll out a public car-sharing model with about 250 cars, followed by a shuttle service and later a peer-to-peer car sharing service where car owners can give their cars for use and earn money in the process.
“These numbers are based on assumed market demand over the last few months. We will see how that works. This has never been done before elsewhere,” Schafer said.
He noted that the model, if successful, could see Rwanda pioneer in the technology globally before replicating it across the world.
VW's ride-hailing service will also operate a similar model such as Uber with the difference being that the cars will be owned by the carmaker.
This model is already being tested with some city dwellers already using the service at discounted rates.
These developments come shortly after Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group launched Africa’s first Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) in Kigali. The platform, that will facilitate Rwandans to transact business with the rest of the world, was launched in partnership with the Government of Rwanda.