Interview: Olivier Binet – Karos

Karos: three cheers for a flexible car-sharing scheme for short commutes!


Opteven’Lab met with Oliver Binet. He is one of the founders and president of the Start-up Karos, specialized in “short journey car sharing®”


Karos has:

  • Won 10 awards in Europe
  • Been supported since its creation by the Ministry of Research and BPI France for its work in R&D, and
  • Has participated in the first world incubation Facebook programme at Station F.


The service has already convinced more than 140,000 users and offered more than 400,000 carpooling opportunities every day.


[Opteven Lab’]: Could you tell us about your business?


[Olivier Binet]: The company was launched in 2014 by my business partner, Tristan Croiset and myself. At the time, Tristan was working at Critéo which is a company specialized in artificial intelligence and in Big Data. As for me, I was working in a company specialized in investment in innovative small businesses.


When we created our company, at the time car-sharing for everyday commutes didn’t exist. We realized that car sharing for short journeys could work like a dating site. In a nutshell, it’s like a dating site that helps you meet your car-sharing “soul sister”. But this poses another problem: you are dependent on your driver (there’s not much flexibility) and it’s not compatible if you need to factor in frequent changes to the itinerary.


With this in mind, we decided to create Karos. So, what does it do exactly? It helps people use the car like public transport with the objective of being flexible in terms of the people who use the service, the times, and days thanks to its intelligent assistant. We work with local transport via an assistant. This means, Karos can:


  • Identify the place where our users are and their destination
  • Predict user-flows
  • Putting users in touch with one other


We’ve moved from “static” car-pooling to flexible carpooling and with no constraints, with different people depending on the days. To summarize, our job is to be a complimentary transport operator within a collective transport network. Today, 20% of our commutes are multi-modal. Our application is downloadable everywhere in France. We have reached a very high level of use in Paris and in Bordeaux. We are developing in Grenoble, Nantes, Toulouse, Lille and Lyon.


[Opteven Lab’]: What is Karo’s economic model?


[OB]: We don’t take commission on each car-pooling commute, as certain operators on long distance journeys do. We have developed two solutions to develop a strong and long-lasting business model.


Karos Entreprises, is sold to key accounts. In fact, companies with more than 100 employees are obliged to put into place mobility plans since January 2018.


Karos Territories is sold to local authorities who wish to improve the mobility of their employees. The Karos mobile application can be set and personalized to be completely integrated into the public transport network of our clients. Today, we are already working in Paris, in Normandy the Reunion island.


[Opteven Lab’]: What is Artificial Intelligence at Karos?


[OB]: The Karos solution uses several elements of artificial intelligence:


  • We have developed a series of algorithms that means that the Karos mobile app can operate like a real intelligent mobility assistant. The application gathers the user’s tracking data, but this can have a negative effect on the battery. Our objective is to use less than 4% of the user’s battery per day.
  • We clear the tracking information linked to the user to clearly identify where we can find the user, on which road, to know at what speed they are travelling.
  • We work on journey prediction via a technique of machine learning, the prediction of our commutes is 80% accurate.
  • We strive to connect people according to their commutes: it’s all about finding the best possible car-pooling partner i.e.: a solution that involves the least walking time possible for the passenger and the shortest detour for the driver. Oskar, our intelligent assistant, automatically suggests the best possible car-pooling solutions for users in relation to their typical routes, at a precise time and with an optimal journey, door to door, including drop-off and pick-up passenger points.


[Opteven Lab’]: What are the visible benefits for users of your service based on Artificial Intelligence?


[OB]: For passengers in relation to public transport:


  • The passenger benefits from a reliable solution to get from point A to point B.
  • The passenger saves at least 24 minutes per trip compared to public transport.


Also, for the driver, using carpooling, as a driver or a passenger, means that you can save up to €82 per month.


Moreover, added to the time saved and increased purchasing power, our users gain on a social level too. They take the boredom out of the daily commute, by making it a shared, pleasant experience.


What are the human and financial means at Karos that deal with Artificial Intelligence?

[OB]: At Karos, we have a dozen people working on the subject. As well as our partner Tristan, who’s an expert in this area, we also have I.T. post-grads, data scientists and I.T. engineers. Our technological and scientific platform represents over 30 years’ experience. We have recently announced a fund-raising scheme for 4.5 million euros. A part of this will be devoted to the development of Artificial Intelligence and the rest will be used to accelerate the development of the company and to assist our clients.

[Opteven Lab’]: Is Artificial Intelligence inevitable for the future of mobility?

[OB]: In cars today, we have a driver and passengers. Tomorrow, with the emergence of the self-driving car, we will only have passengers. However, the problem will remain the same: we will need to find solutions that optimize the rate of filling up cars to reduce the cost of the journey per person and to propose the best routes by exploiting the structuring networks of public transport.


[Opteven Lab’]: Do you have any nice stories to tell us about Karos?

[OB]: A user told us that during a job interview, they had got a job after convincing an employer that the Karos solution would mutually benefit both of them. When the employer said “you live too far away, you will get too tired by driving here every day” our user replied “If I use Karos, it will only take 40 minutes to get to work and moreover, I won’t be doing the driving, so when I get to work, I’ll be more rested than other employees.”

To conclude, our users find our solution easy to use, which saves them time and money. Moreover, they have become “addicted” to the chance encounters with like-minded people thanks to this car-pooling scheme!


Are you interested in local carpooling? Find our article on blablalines.

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