General Motors buys the assets of ride-hailing company Sidecar

In another step this month to position itself for on-demand ride hailing, General Motors has acquired the technology and assets of Sidecar Technologies, a San Francisco-based ride-hailing service that shut down at the end of 2015.

This step comes after GM's Jan. 4 announcement that it is investing $500 million in Lyft, the second-largest provider of on-demand rides after Uber. GM President Dan Ammann is to join Lyft’s board of directors.

Separately, GM has filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to use the name Maven “for application software for connecting vehicle drivers and passengers and for coordinating transportation services.”

The application says Maven also would engage in the rental of vehicles, bicycles and motorized bicycles, scooters and other transportation services for people and freight.

As part of the Sidecar transaction, GM will hire more than a dozen Sidecar employees, including Jahan Khanna, its co-founder and chief technology officer. Sunil Paul, Sidecar co-founder and chief executive, will not join GM, according to Bloomberg News.

“In connection with Sidecar ceasing operations, we can confirm that we have attracted Sidecar employees to be integrated into the GM urban mobility team, and acquired certain related assets, for work on our global mobility programs,” GM said in a statement.

GM spokesman Vijay Iyer said: “We’re happy we were able to garner interest from a number of their team members, particularly in the San Francisco area. It shows they feel that what we’re working on is relevant from an urban mobility perspective.”

Despite backing from such notable investors as Google Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Richard Branson, Sidecar struggled to compete with Uber and Lyft. Sidecar was able to raise only $35 million in funding, according to CrunchBase. In contrast, Uber is riding $6.6 billion in funding, while Lyft has raised $1.3 billion.

GM and Lyft will open rental hubs where drivers can rent GM vehicles. That could expand Lyft’s business by enabling people to become Lyft drivers even if they don’t own cars. Lyft drivers currently use their own vehicles.

GM will gain access to Lyft’s customer data, which could be valuable in communicating new services or even offer those customers the chance to lease or buy their own vehicles. Over the long term, the companies plan to develop a fleet of autonomous vehicles that can be summoned with Lyft’s software.

Gardner writes for the Detroit Free Press/McClatchy.

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