September 1, 2020
An Interview with Clément Guasco
In a world full of emerging mobility options, the benefits of one of the simplest forms of shared mobility - carpooling - are often overlooked. Shinier, futuristic alternatives, such as autonomous driving, e-vehicles and aerial mobility tend to steal the new mobility stage instead.
But carpooling is one of the most effective and easy-to-implement forms of shared mobility out there. It takes cars off the streets and reduces CO2 emissions in the process. After all, carpooling uses resources that the world already has plenty of: cars, drivers and passengers. Putting multiple people in one car is such a simple way of reducing congestion and improving the daily commute, it’s hard to believe that more companies haven’t embraced a carpooling program yet.
But for Clément Guasco, Digital Business Developer at the Federation of Danish Motorists, the benefits of carpooling need no explanation. Clément is, by any definition, a carpool enthusiast. We met him at his company’s HQ in Lyngby, just outside of Copenhagen, to talk about carpooling - and why FDM believes it’s the future of Danish mobility.
P: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Clément! First things first: it was hard not to notice that beautifully maintained 1903 Model-T parked downstairs in the atrium.
C: Welcome, Pia. Yes, we are very proud of our Model-T. It took part in a parade last year - we drove it out of the building for some “fresh air”.
P: That’s incredible, I can’t believe it still drives! It serves as a testament to FDM’s long history, too. Can you briefly walk us through FDM’s timeline?
C: FDM was founded in 1909. The association actually started as a reaction to a new Danish law that forbade car owners to drive on secondary roads, which was a grassroots issue at the time. Eventually, and partially thanks to FDM, the government gave car owners the right to drive everywhere. That’s when things took off, and FDM developed into an association that promotes the interest of all car owners. Today, we help members buy, insure, sell or repair their cars, as well as offer a variety of other services.
P: Would you go into detail about those services?
C: A big part of our company is our offers to member and car owners in general. We share our knowledge with the car owners on our own platforms and in external media and we have a magazine, Motor, that is more than 100 years old. Readers can find information about technical and safety tests we’ve done on automobiles, product reviews, information on new car models, Danish infrastructure and construction news, and a variety of other topics.
We also offer legal and technical services and have hotlines for both. Members can always call us with parking, insurance or repair questions. We also have a shop full of products we’ve tested out and reviewed ourselves. We do a lot of testing, because giving advice and consultation are a big part of how we help our members out - we’ve got their backs! And we offer many services like insurance, road assistance, travel agency, driving courses and Test inspection sites. And we also have a benefit program for our members.
We’re a political organization, so we also have a duty to inform drivers about changes in mobility, including giving opinions on coming regulations or on how to tackle congestion. We are for example working on helping our members make the switch to electric cars.
P: Why did FDM decide to expand its offerings with carpool?
C: Our pilot project_,_ called Ta’Med! (loosely translated as “come with!”), uses carpooling to address both congestion and CO2 emissions. It’s not on holiday trips that cars pollute the most - it’s the daily commute that needs to be rethought, because it happens on such a regular basis. We know that carpooling reduces the number of cars driving back and forth to a specific place every day.
We consider this a societal issue that affects everyone, including our members - and we have quite a lot. Almost a quarter million families are members of FDM, and this topic touches all our members.
P: Who is the Ta’Med project helping directly and how does it affect its end users?
C: That’s a very interesting question, because usually when people think of carpooling, they talk about a driver matching with a passenger and the passenger paying the driver for the service. But the more we explored carpooling, the more we could see that’s it not just the drivers getting paid who benefit from it: who really gains from carpooling are companies, communities and society.
That’s why we wanted Wunder’s help in figuring out a solution. Wunder had the technology perspective, and we could provide excellent customer service because that’s our area of expertise. Companies can then use the platform that we built for them and encourage employees to drive to work together. That’s how you really unlock the value of carpooling: if companies are excited about helping their employees become active carpoolers.
P: So it’s all about incentivizing?
C: Exactly. CSR is a very big topic in Denmark. In our most recent elections, every party in the running had some sort of green agenda. The first thing politicians did when they were elected was to pass a law reducing CO2 emissions by 70% by 2030. Everyone’s talking about the feasibility of laws like that, and journalists are asking companies how they’re going to reach those green targets. That’s where we come in and help: we provide them with an easy solution for achieving sustainability milestones.
P: What are FDM’s plans for Ta’Med in the near future and for the next five years?
C: This year, we started our project in an industrial area where ten companies are located. Those companies have 6000 employees commuting back and forth from the area every day. We already have a lot of sign-ups, but now we need to get everyone carpooling on a regular basis.
Following the success of our launch, we quickly opened the system to all of Denmark. We’re currently in the process of partnering with companies and municipalities around Denmark and inviting them to join our carpooling program for free. Our agenda is also to spread the word about carpooling: we want every company to know that the option exists today for them to start carpooling tomorrow.
As I mentioned before, we think that if passengers have to pay for the service, carpooling won’t get big enough to actually make a difference for society. We think it should be institutionalized, which is of course very political. We want to build an ecosystem where the ones providing value to society are rewarded for it.
Which brings me to our future plans for Ta’Med and FDM. When looking to the future, we were inspired by France, where they recently enacted a law called the Law on Framing the New Mobility. It’s an extremely visionary law: it changed the current state of local mobility dramatically, as it allows both the private and public sectors to subsidize different green mobility solutions. That has resulted in about 35 active carpooling companies operating there. That’s huge! There are millions of carpooling trips being taken in France yearly.
That visionary mindset is something we’d like to emulate in the long term. Political systems don’t change overnight, but we want to at least get started on building a better future right away. Subsidies and governmental involvement make carpooling sustainable. Without either, you’d have to incentivize constantly, and the wrong people would be paying to carpool, ultimately leading to a systemic breakdown in the long run.
P: So it’s about the public and the private sector coming together and collaborating, right? It has to come from all sides.
C: That’s what we think. That’s why we started this project altogether: we figured that if we want to pitch an idea to companies, we’ll need to practice what we preach first.
P: Why did you reach out to Wunder Mobility and ultimately choose us as your software partner?
C: We looked for partners all across the globe before settling on Wunder. We were already engaged in carpooling projects, but we couldn’t find one in Denmark that we thought was capable of turning our vision into reality. Truth be told, when we first started looking around for companies, not that many people seemed interested in Denmark. They’d ask us, “Denmark, where’s that? How many people live there, only 5 million?! Is that a city in Sweden?”
It seemed that we could trust Wunder to help us grow.
Not everyone shied away from us, though. We tested several potential partners based on pricing and technology. Once we had weighed our options, Wunder seemed to be the right platform for what we wanted, particularly because you have the ability to help us scale up.
There are so many startups out there, and it’s always difficult to tell if they’re going to be around for another few years. That’s why Wunder was appealing to us as a partner: it seemed that we could trust you to help us grow. Your last investment round indicates that we made the right choice.
P: Can you tell us about the state of mobility in Denmark today? Are Danes driving private cars to work, is shared mobility something Danes have been using from the get-go, or do cyclists rule the roads?
C: In Denmark, everybody drives cars, just like most other places in the world. Even though we’re famous for biking, most cyclists ride in cities and urban areas. 82% of all personal transport kilometers in Denmark happen by car. Additionally, biking in Denmark has been declining steadily since the 90s, and driving a car is increasing steadily. This is definitely not helping with congestion and will be a challenge for the climate until we all drive electric cars.
That’s also a reason why we see carpooling as the only real alternative to private car ownership today. When people live far away from public transportation or their place of work, their choices are extremely limited. That’s why that “82%” matters so much to us. A lot of other mobility companies and organizations are focusing on city inhabitants, so FDM is taking care of the rest of the population.
P: How has your partnership with Wunder Mobility been so far? Do you like working with us?
C: Yes, we do. Wunder has provided us with a good after-sales service. We have several projects going on with different suppliers at the moment, but once the product is launched, the responsiveness of the after-sales service is not always the same. Wunder kept up the effort to make this project work and responded quickly to our questions. It was a valuable help for us, especially in the initial phase of the project.