Disrupt or be disrupted.

General Motors has chosen the former, and has chosen to do so in Waterloo Region, rolling out the first Canadian location for its Maven car-sharing service.

“Maven fits very much in what is the transformation of the auto industry,” explained Hoss Hassani, Maven’s Managing Director for Canada, at a kickoff social Wednesday afternoon at Communitech’s Area 151.

“Urban mobility is a bit of an industry term but ultimately we’re talking about offering access and options to people who don’t necessarily want to own a car, or do own a car but need more access and options.”

Maven is operating in 16 cities across the United States since first rolling out in Ann Arbor, Mich., in January 2016. The Waterloo Region service is Maven’s Canadian beachhead, and the company has been busy testing a beta version of its Canadian app for the past six-or-so weeks.

Once it’s certain all the bugs have been ironed out and the system is operating smoothly the company will scale quickly to other large Canadian cities.

“Any time you cross a border it brings some complexities to it,” said Hassani. “[Waterloo Region] is our safe zone. We’ve received so much support here. Where better to launch an app?”

Maven is a keyless system. Users reserve a car using their Apple or Android phone and the app both unlocks and starts the vehicle via Bluetooth connection. A gas card is kept inside each vehicle. Prices start at $7 per hour for a Chevrolet Spark and range up to $15 per hour for a GMC Yukon.

“The beauty of Maven is it’s a completely keyless operation,” said Hassani. “We’ve got brand new vehicles. We’ve got the best vehicles you can imagine.

“All our cars have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is a free Wi-Fi hotspot in each vehicle with unlimited data. [There are] OnStar safety features that nobody else can touch. So, it’s a premium product, a premium offering, nobody else comes close to it, and with really strong price points.”

Maven, Hassani said, is a response to the changes underway in the automotive industry, changes that are in part driven by technology and in part by changing social patterns.

“We see a future automotive industry that’s increasingly shared, electric, connected and autonomous,” said Hassani.

“For [GM], we really have a horse in each of those lanes, whether it’s electric with the Volt, whether its connected with OnStar — which is unlike any other telematics system in the industry — whether it’s shared with our relationship with Lyft, and autonomous, with our investments in Cruise.

“We don’t want to be disrupted by anybody. We want to disrupt ourselves. Maven is the first real evidence of us doing that.”

The company currently has five vehicles — a Chevy Spark, Malibu and Cruze, a GMC Yukon and a Buick Encore — stationed at its Waterloo Region outpost, located in downtown Kitchener off Charles Street West, just across the street from Communitech.

 

About The Author

Craig Daniels
Senior Journalist

Craig Daniels is a veteran reporter, columnist and editor who has joined Communitech’s editorial team as senior journalist. He worked most recently at Postmedia in Hamilton, where he led the team that produced the National Post, and before that at the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Sun, Financial Post, the Montreal Daily News and the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John, N.B. He has an abiding interest in the transformational power and promise of tech and startup ecosystems, is a commercially licensed pilot, and has a debilitating wrist-watch fetish.