Breaking down in a vehicle is never fun and the subsequent experience of receiving roadside assistance is usually a nightmare, rather like the business model itself.
In the UK, the AA was optimistically known as ‘the fourth emergency service’ such was its ubiquity in the country. Such omnipresence, however, led to a lack of competition and an ensuant customer experience that was rarely of the satisfactory kind.
Such business has been ripe for disruption for many years and it now seems that the world’s leading car manufacturers are putting their weight behind this happening.
Last week the venture arms of Porsche, BMK and Land Rover Jaguar invested $21 million Series B Round in breakdown assistance company Urgent.ly, an app that enables drivers to only pay for the service when they need it.
Founded in 2013, Urgent.ly offers a dramatically different model to existing roadside assistance companies where the advance payment subscription model means many drivers never have need of its services.
Duplication can also be a problem for road users, especially if banks or other companies offer free roadside assistance as part of certain packages. In some instances, one household could have at least two subscriptions for the same service without even knowing it.
So step forward, Urgent.ly and its major automotive supporters. Users can request help such as fixing a tire, getting a jump-start or towed to a garage via the app, which connects them with appropriate local services.
These unlucky drivers on the roadside can see what they will have to pay and all of the payments can be handled within the app. The model also appears to be ready for electric vehicles when they run out of juice, electric charging in this example.
Urgent.ly calls itself a full-service roadside assistance provider, taking advantage of connectivity to offer an integrated recovery service from first notification to repair.
The geolocation of Urgent.ly’s customers and their vehicles means the best-rated and closest providers in proximity are algorithmically matched, assigned and dispatched. All of these steps – including ETAs, provider tracking, communications and ratings – are connected through Urgent.ly’s ‘seamless, end-to-end digital experience’.
In two years of operations in the US, Europe and Asia, Urgent.ly already has 45,000 connected recovery vehicles on its platform and has signed deals with several large auto manufacturers and insurers.
The injection of $21 million in funds will strengthen the company’s ties with these large manufacturers and is seemingly a first step in the transformation of roadside assistance. Chris Spanos, CEO and co-founder of Urgent.ly was effusive about the investment.
“We are truly gratified by the support of our investors as we work to define the future of mobility and the roadside assistance experience that customers demand and deserve.
We will continue to innovate our connected services across the global automotive, insurance and mobility markets, where we have driven increases in customer satisfaction over the legacy analog models that have defined the industry for the past 70 years.”
While it may, indeed, be a long road before Urgent.ly vies with existing roadside assistance behemoths, the support of three major automobile companies suggest that there will be no lack of drive on their part.