Technology Designed To Get You To Say Good-bye To Privately Owned Cars.

[Hold on there fellow gearheads, there may be some validity in this statement 😃 ]

By Jeff Daum, Ph.D., PPA Photojournalist, Technology & Product Analyst

Interview with Justin Rees (JR), Founder & CEO Ride Systems, Kelly Rees (KR), President Ride Systems, and Ilya Rekhter (IR), CEO DoubleMap.

Backstory: Ride Systems and DoubleMap had just merged at the time of this interview, bringing together two companies with a proven track record of providing safe, fact-based real-time information on transportation alternatives for getting from point A to point B.  This includes public transit and on-demand (Uber, Lyft etc.) transit.  The combined data bases comprise public transit riders, corporations (employee vans), airports, universities and hotels.  While now operating under one holding company, both will maintain their respective brick and mortar headquarters.  Both companies have a free app (Ride Systems and DoubleMap GPS) allowing the user to see alternatives available to get from A to B either entirely on one service or in combination, along with real-time indication of when the option will be at a specific location.

(left to right) Ilya Rekhter, Kelley Rees, Justin Rees

JD Let’s start with a statement by you Justin: “Our services offer a quantum leap forward enabling everybody to say good-bye to privately owned cars soon.” Would you please put that in perspective?

JR Timing is everything, millennials are delaying the purchases of large items, cars and houses for example.  They also want to live in big urban areas.  So, they are already forgoing owning multiple cars or even any car, for more liberating options.  The other side of that is that you are seeing even the automakers get into the services business.  They want to be mobility companies.  As you saw at CES, big companies are investing heavily in autonomous cars, sensors, and smart cities. Those companies are trying to shift from being a commodity producing company into service and mobility sector. 

So, you are seeing transportation sharing options greatly increasing and providing short, medium and long-range alternatives, from scooters to ride share, to on demand to public transit.

IR To piggy back on what Justin is saying, it starts with that family that has one car and thinking about buying a second car, the easier we can make it for them to ride public transit and not need to buy the second car, the more it will continue trending that way.  Then you take it and make it more personalized with more options including public transit, and combine in one place, and easy to use app, those options to get from point A to point B and more and more people will use it.

JR So why do people hesitate to use the other modes of transportation? It’s the lack of confidence in public transit, for example, where is it? Will it ever get here?  How long do I have to wait?  All those questions prevent people from feeling comfortable in using public transit.  You have to have confidence in it to want to use it.  Same thing is true for other alternatives, such as scooters or bikes, on demand cars- you gain confidence if you know where it is and how long you have to wait for it.

Having the information available to them is where we come in.  We own the data in that middle market, we are in seven hundred plus locations.   We provide real time information for public transit and other modes of transportation.  Big cities, small cities, corporations, medical centers, universities.  As a result, we have scooter companies, car sharing companies and automotive companies come to us and say since you are already in all of these places if we team up, instead of launching in just a few select places, we can deploy on a large scale using your existing network and contracts with the cities.

JD: Is your audience the same for the public transit as it is for on demand rides?

IR For us it started with the transit riders, but now they can see in the same app, a mesh network to get from point A to point B, an alternative means to cover the distance from where they live to the bus, or from the bus to their ultimate destination, or even not to take the bus at all but one of the other options.

JD But will the individual who uses an Uber or Lyft, now decide because of your app, to use public transit? What is the incentive?

IR Perhaps seeing there are clear options that can save money, particularly if time isn’t critical.  The ride share companies are interested in being part of our app to get more ‘eyeballs’ to see their services.  Also, it depends on what a particular city has in terms of arrangements with different ride share companies.  If they have agreements with for example, both Uber and Lyft, then both would be part of our app for that city.

JD Are taxis favorable to your app?

IR Using Dallas as an example, the city has brokered a deal with Uber and Lyft, as well as the taxis.  That is a differentiation for our service, we don’t take a position pro one service or another.  The taxis in Dallas have our software in their cars, so they can serve more as an on-demand option.

JR The option comes down to the confidence, do I take a scooter to get to the bus, take an Uber to get to the bus, or walk to the bus.  Do I even want to take a bus, is there another option to get downtown?  They will find all those options through our app.  We have the platform where all those options can be made available.  It is all about options, giving the people options to choose from, the freedom to choose how they want to do it.  Of course, with your own car, you can hop in it and go where and when you want, but you have the cost of the car, getting there, garaging or parking it, etc.  If you don’t have a car, the perception has been that you don’t have freedom.  We provide that freedom.

Of course, it will take some time, but people are already doing it- the millennial crowd is already doing it.   We think people are anxious to find a better way to get around.  Traffic is as bad as it has ever been, parking and the cost of owning a car is going up, as is the related stress.  These technologies of making people comfortable to use alternative modes of transportation will help alleviate a lot of that stress.

JD You had mentioned the OEMs are interested in it.  Of course, they are focused on the shift in buying habits and have started offering their own alternatives.  You have Volvo, Lincoln and Cadillac offering new types of quick leases, no obligation, easy swap from one model to another and totally inclusive monthly payments covering the car, the insurance, maintenance and swap potential.  For example, Volvo I think is $500 per month to virtually any qualified individual where they offer the option.  Is this in competition to your service?

IR That is actually music to our ears, we don’t own any of our vehicles except for our pending start of our Tesla X car share service fleet.  The reasons the OEMs are starting these new types of leases is because they want their cars on the road. We have the advantage of offering the use of any of those vehicles as well.  It will be a natural complement.

JD But if you own a fleet, won’t you be seen as pushing your cars vs other options?

IR I don’t think it is a question of one or the other, it is a question of providing as many options as possible.

KR Let’s back up a do a little bit of background on the company.  That might help paint a picture why it won’t be a big deal.  For example, some of our biggest clients are big corporations, closed campuses, etc.  They are the perfect place to start the car share aspect of our business, a specific program for a specific client.

IR For example, where a client may have a fleet of several hundred vehicles and thousands of employees, they can use our app to create on demand vs scheduled rides.

JR Another example, for a client in a big city, we are able to merge all different types of transportation modes (short, medium and long range) and make them available to their employees in one app.  Instead of the client having to go to each of the services and try and negotiate and integrate, we do that for them. Cities are hard to get into on large scale because of the bid process and because cities have little incentive to share information with the specific companies in their area. Because of this we are already involved with a lot of these cities, we offer our clients and strategic partners that connection. That ranges from tracking buses and shuttles for commuters to launching new offerings to the communities members in the area like scooters and car share programs.

JD Let’s segue into details on your app.

KR It is more than an app, it also includes hardware.

JR I look at it as three pillars- the first one is what we are known for, our mobile application.  It is free.  The second pillar is in the vehicle.  In buses, most are a step back in time, with clickers for counting passengers, manually changing the route sign, etc. We install hardware inside the bus that takes over all these functions and frees up the driver to focus on safety and driving.  The third pillar is that the hardware we install integrates these functions on the bus and sends real time updates to our servers where we do business intelligence. That is then reflected for example, in our app, showing current position, time to next stop, etc., as well as real time passenger load, a more efficient routing and use of buses.

IR It is really the analysis and use of that data for both the bus (or car company) and user that is key.  For example, a user can look at passenger load and decide to take a different bus, or if the next bus has a bike rack installed, or can pick up a person in a wheelchair.  While on the bus, they can use the app to order a car to pick them up when they arrive.

We also have numerous capabilities we can build into the onboard equipment, such as badge readers, WiFi capabilities, etc.

JD Where are the buses that you have this technology currently running?

JR For example, Reno, University of Nevada, here in Las Vegas, Arrow Stage Lines, a charter bus service, Houston, Tulsa, really in all 50 states., Guam, Mexico and Australia. We haven’t done a lot of press so it isn’t well known, but we are the single largest provider of this type of technology across the world.  Our service sounds like an app, but it is like the tip of an iceberg in terms of the full range of services we provide.

JD Would you talk a bit about your new roles now as a merged organization of your two companies?

JR Merging makes a lot of sense from a business perspective.  We have been fairly selfless in figuring out what will be best for our employees in both companies, our clients, and how to not disrupt everything.  I will be the CEO, Ilya has the same abilities but he also is one of the best guys when it comes to strategies, and numbers and sales and will be President, so that will be his focus, Peter (SerVass) is always about 10 steps ahead of us in looking into the future, he worked very hard on this merger, and will be the strategist.  Kelly, her focus will be in marketing and press.

IR We are fortunate in that both companies have very capable and strong individuals. Culture has been very important to us.  We have both been self-funded and profitable.  This year we are projecting to be an 18 to 19 million dollars revenue company.  Basically, blending what DoubleMap and Ride Systems has done really well and making one big win.

JD Do you think you will stay self-funded?

JR We are doing great the way that we are, but if the right opportunity comes along, we won’t turn it down, but we are confident in our ability to do this.  This merger enables us to take a risk and really grow the businesses to the next level.

IR The key is that both companies came in with clean balance sheets and profitable.  We have the funding to grow organically.

JR So we are open to the option, we don’t want to restrict our growth if the issue is capital.

JD In summary, what would you like to emphasize?

JR Well, we are the largest real time transit information company in the world, no one has as many and as much variety of clients in as many locations as we do.

IR To our existing clients, it is important to know, there is no turnover.  We are taking the best from both companies and combining it.

JD You handle a lot of data obviously, what type of security and back up do you have?

JR That’s a really great question. A big and important topic for people.  We have secure data centers, AWS with Amazon Web Services, IBM secure data centers, all sorts of redundancy and backups.  We take security around personal information very seriously. 

JD Anything else you would like to add?

JR We are just thrilled to make this merger finally happen and excited for what it means for the people of our two companies, and for our clients and future clients.  The sky is the limit.

IR We are both proverbial garage startups.  To grow it to this, we couldn’t be happier.  We are going to keep the two (apps) brands independent, but integrate across them as appropriate.

KR Looping back to where you opened this, needing to own a car versus wanting to own a car are two different things.  The automotive enthusiast, the hobbyist, the love of driving is different from having to commute from A to B.  As the information (transit options) is out there, we believe more and more people will be giving up their cars.

JD It has been fascinating learning the details, and meeting all of you. Thank you for taking the time and sharing your enthusiasm.  Continued success!

Copyright 2019 © Jeff Daum

Interview with Mike Brewer of Wheeler Dealers

While at Barrett-Jackson’s 2016 Car Collector Auction in Las Vegas, Nevada, I had the great pleasure of spending some time with Mike Brewer, who car enthusiasts worldwide know from his and Edd China’s highly entertaining, Wheeler Dealers fame.


brewer-2-of-7
The following is a transcript of my recorded interview as Mike and I were walking across the vast Mandalay Bay convention center, filled with every imaginable type of transportation. Having just walked past an older Corvette, I took it as an opportunity to segue into Mike’s impressions of the new Corvette Stingray.

JD: You haven’t gone into any detail [on your show] on the C7, the new one. I know you prefer old cars.
Mike: Yeah, actually I like the C7. I like the new one. I had a little ride and drive in one of those C7s, when they first came out, and I think it’s the, well undoubtedly, it’s the best Corvette they’ve ever made.
JD: Certainly agree with you.
Mike: … And it’s the closest I think for the first time, American engineers got anywhere close to a European engineer in terms of mainly it’s styling, but in terms of the feel, because the car does feel very European on the road. You know like the Ferrari does feel, say a C6 Corvette feels very different from a Ferrari 355-
JD: Right.
Mike: …Which feels much more connected, and that was half of the problem, you didn’t feel connected to the car, but with the C7, it feels like you’re putting on a leather glove. It really does feel like you are connected to the car.
JD: It is the total package.
Mike: Yeah.

JD: Thinking of all the cars that you’ve had a chance to acquire, I’m sure there’s still a list of ones that you haven’t yet…
Mike: There’s many.
JD: What are the couple that are next on your list, the one’s reflecting your highest desires?
Mike: That’s a good question. On my highest desirable list. Actually, I’ve actually almost achieved most of my dreams of in terms of inside the Corvette world. I’ve got a, I’ve just got a wonderful C3 Corvette, it’s a ’67 Mako Shark, it was the, it’s not the Stingray, it was the ’68 in red. Beautiful car, convertible. I bought that car in, I do believe in Texas, and we did a lovely restoration job on it and we took it to the lake bed and drove it. Phenomenal. That was a great car, but in terms of my dreams, and what I’d like to do, the list is endless honestly I’ve got so many. Yeah, the list is endless, I’ve got so many cars that I haven’t got to yet.brewer-4-of-7

One of the cars that we still haven’t done and I can’t believe it for a Brit, is a Rolls Royce Corniche convertible.
JD: I was fortunate enough to own a 1975 RR Corniche drop head coupe Mediterranean Blue with Blue top and Magnolia hides.
Mike: You’ve had a better car collection than me!
JD: I was the second owner. It was probably the prettiest car line-wise, classic lines that I’ve ever owned. Incredible build, I loved the car. Drove it 11 years.
Mike: Wonderful. Yeah, I mean, you know there’s so many cars I haven’t gotten to yet, and walking around here at Barrett-Jackson, you know I get that feeling that I can see so many cars that sometimes cars pass me by, I don’t notice them, until I see them again, and you know, all of a sudden the world has gone mad for these pickup trucks, you know, C10 pickup trucks, and we haven’t done one of those yet on Wheeler Dealers and that’s a nice thing I’d like to venture into, but also older cars you know. If you was to ask me what is my most desirable dream car that I’d ever like to get my hands on is undoubtedly going to be a late ’20s Bentley blower. That would be it as my dream, but that in a realistic world, you know, one of those today is half a million dollars, and that’d be for just a shed.
JD: Right.
Mike: … So it’s going to be difficult to ever achieve that dream. It’s out there, you know, one day.
JD: When you source the parts.
Mike: Yes.
JD: In the US versus the UK.
Mike: Yeah.
JD: Do you rely more on your networking here or you still use the Internet a lot like we see you doing on the show?
Mike: I spend my life on the internet. You will see that during the course of the day when I get a break here, we’re making 8 hours of live television here today at Barrett-Jackson and then when I get a break in between filming, from these people around, and when I get a break in between filming, I am sitting on the Internet, and you’ll be surprised what I’m looking for. You know I could be looking for hubcaps for a Messerschmitt or I could be looking at the, you know, the gear shifter for a Citroen Maserati. You know, I could be looking for all kinds of stuff that’s currently going on in my world out there.

Now I’m just immersed in what’s going on and in terms of car restoration, and where I need to find those parts, but the Internet is my most valuable resource, just like everybody else in the world, really.
JD: Okay. You’re over here about 6 months out of the year.
Mike: It’s about 9 months now.
JD: 9 months now?
Mike: Yeah, 9 months of the year. Yeah, we’re based down in California.
JD: Right, that I knew. I guess it was 2 years ago when you were on the Velocity Live show over at SEMA, where you were talking that you just purchased that location.
JD: From the whole process, from the acquisition to the restoring to the selling, which part excites you the most?brewer-6-of-7
Mike: It’s most definitely the test drive at the end. It’s the achievement that you know, that sense of achievement that you’ve done what you set out to do, because you know, cars can be tricky. Some cars come into the workshop with me and they offer themselves up, they say, “Restore me, I want to be restored, here I am”, you know, and they undo easy, the nuts and bolts come off, the fenders, the hood, the bonnet, the engine pulls apart easy.
Yet other cars, they come into the workshop and they put boxing gloves on. They’re a little bit like Mike Tyson, and they want to go 10 rounds with you, and they’re not easy. They don’t want to be restored, they want to die. When we beat those cars into submission, and we give them a new coat of paint, some new lipstick, and we put them out there on the road and we test drive them. That sense of achievement brings a tear to my eye, and that’s why I do this show, I love it.
JD: That’s the enthusiasm that we see as viewers when you and Edd are out afterwards, before you actually sell it.
Mike: Yeah, I mean I just love, you know, we just love restoring cars and a lot of people don’t know this, but when the cameras are cut, not so much for Edd, but for me, when the cameras are cut, what do I do in my spare time? Restore cars. My own cars.
JD: [We walk past a Mark 2 Jaguar]
Mike: Mark 2 Jaguar? Love to talk about that.
JD: Isn’t that a beauty?
Mike: It’s a beauty, but it’s not a good color. It’s not a good original color combination. Nobody ever done that, but it would work, it’d be a nice car, it’s a Jaguar.

JD: You had that in Rolls and Bentley, those color combinations.
Mike: Yeah, but not in Jaguar.
JD: Right.
Mike: They never did that two-tone Jaguar. That’s somebody’s interpretation of what a British car should look like, and these chrome accents here that they put on the hood.
JD: Right.
Mike: They’re not correct either, you know, they just put those on because it’s had it’s Hollywood face lift hasn’t it? It’s a British car that’s been to Hollywood.
JD: Right. Do I have a couple more minutes?
Mike: Yeah, yeah you can go for it.
JD: Thanks. You did a great job in Afghanistan.
Mike: Thank you, much appreciated. It’s my proudest achievement I think.
JD: It was very well recognized.
Mike: Thank you.
JD: Is there something similar you have planned down the line?
Mike: I’d really like to not go back into military programming. Having the two documentaries and nearly died several times. You know, I’ve got a wonderful wife, an amazing daughter and it was something that I wanted to do as a passion inside me and I wrote and produced that series, but I’ve done it, and I’m proud of what I’ve done. I have put a spotlight for a moment on what goes on in the real theater of war, and I felt it and you know, it’s my biggest achievement I’ve ever done in my life and long may it just stay there. You know, I can look back at it and show my grandkids and say “This is what I did”, but yeah, I don’t want to go back there again, it’s a scary place, and you know, the service men and women all across the world, British, American, whoever they are, you know, I salute them. I can’t tell you just what they go through because it’s horrible.
JD: I appreciate that, thank you very much.
Time for one more question?
Mike: Yeah, yeah.
JD: Okay. Autonomous cars.
Mike: Yeah.
JD: Thoughts.
Mike: My thoughts on autonomous cars, okay. You know, I think, I’ve worked harder than anybody else I know, and the thought of getting in a car at the end of the day, pressing a button then it taking me home, fills me with joy. Fills me with joy, but the thought of actually doing it sends shivers down my spine. I’m never going to do that. I want to hold that steering wheel. I want to feel the pedals under my feet. I want to feel the road surface. I’m not going to trust a computer to get me home. You know, I can’t trust myself to get me home, let alone a computer, and I live in a world where you know, well we all do, you know, you’re in, if you’re on your cellphone, and we’ve got computers at home and cellphones. I’m forever rebooting mine and trying to get the thing to work, and so I don’t know if I want to be cruising down the freeways at 70 miles an hour with a computer that needs rebooting at some point.
JD: Exactly.
Mike: No, I think I’ll be, I think I’ll let it go for a few years and see how people get on with it, and see what happens before I ever decide to go and do such a thing, but no. I think there is a future for it. I think there is a market for it, and I can understand why you’ve got the likes of Google and Amazon and other companies chasing after this Utopian world that we’re all going to be driving around in these wonderful self-driving cars, but I think it’s a long way off. I do believe there’s been accidents already with cars that have been automated. No for me, I want to hold the steering wheel.
JD: Thank you Mike, I tremendously appreciate your time.
Mike: It’s an absolute pleasure sir, it’s always, I’m honored to talk to people.
JD: Nicky would you take one picture of us with my camera?
Nicky: Absolutely!
brewer-7-of-7JD: Thank you so much.
Mike: Well, Jeff it’s been a real pleasure to meet you sir. You have a great day here today at Barrett-Jackson, I’m sure-
JD: I will.
Mike: … You’ll get lots of content. There’s tons of cars and it’s going to be exciting.


And off Mike went, continuing on his hectic pace surrounded by a Velocity camera crew to his next filming event. The impression of the man lingered in spite of the ‘energizer bunny’ style- so genuinely interested in and knowledgeable about all things automotive, so easy to interact with and personable. A real pleasure indeed!