The ride hailing app Free Now will invest 30 million euros over the next five years into its new innovation center in Barcelona, the first the company is building outside of Germany.
According to the leaders of the company, the company’s 1,400 square meter space in Plaça Catalunya in the centre of Barcelona already has 100 workers from 24 different countries, and expects to hire 50 more people.
General director of Free Now for all of Spain, Jaime Rodríguez de Santiago, stressed that more than half of the taxi drivers "embrace change" and are willing to "help the transition" and work with "more flexible elements." Rodríguez de Santiago also commented that Barcelona has more than 18,000 registered taxi drivers and half a million users.
The general director also indicated that taxi drivers are a "tremendously diverse" group and that there is also a "more traditional" sector within taxi drivers that will not work with the platform.
According to Rodríguez de Santiago, the Spanish market is one of the main markets in Europe. The company already has the center of Hamburg and Berlin, and the second most important. In fact, of the 5.7 million developers in Europe, 200,000 are in Barcelona.
The Director of Personnel of Free Now in Europe, Àlex Balsells, explains that in the short term the company plans to incorporate the skateboarding service Hive to its platform and a scooter service at the end of the year.
In the end, the goal is, according to Balsells, the creation of a platform to centralize different types of transport and that "the consumer can choose which transport best suits them for their specific route."
The board also commented that the company is rolling out a new technology that lets drivers know where there is more demand for rides, which will allow taxi drivers not to have to travel so many kilometers without a passenger, which will make cities "more efficient and more ecological."
Free Now, which is backed by Daimler and BMW, currently operates in 100 cities in Europe and has 14 million passengers.