Automotive giant Daimler has acquired two ride-sharing companies that could help the German company become a stronger competitor to Uber and Lyft.
Daimler, which owns the Mercedes-Benz and the Smart car brands, has acquired RideScout, an app for finding ride-shares and other transport options in US cities, and Intelligent Apps, a German company which makes the mytaxi app for ordering taxis in the US and Europe.
Terms of the acquisitions weren't disclosed, though the Wall Street Journal put the value of both at less than $100 million. Daimler made the acquisitions through a subsidiary called moovel.
It's a unique move by a big automaker to capitalise on the trend of people using their smartphones to hail rides. Ironically, Daimler's Mercedez-Benz cars are popular among taxi drivers in Europe - the very people who've been trying to get Uber and similar services banned.
It's also interesting that Daimler is based in Germany, since that country recently banned Uber from operating there because its drivers aren't licensed to carry passengers. Uber has said it will defy the ban.
"The acquisition of RideScout and Intelligent Apps pushes our global strategy a significant step forward," said Robert Henrich, CEO at Daimler's moovel unit.
"We are investing further in the development and growth of urban mobility in North America, Germany and other parts of the world," he added.
RideScout's app provides real-time information about local transport options including bus, bike, taxi, and car-sharing. It's available in nearly 70 cities across the US and will continue to operate out of its headquarters in Austin, Texas.
Daimler said it will accelerate the international expansion of Intelligent Apps' mytaxi app.
By strengthening those services, Daimler could provide some added competition for companies like Uber and Lyft. But it could also be a potential ally, by helping to overcome some of the regulatory hurdles facing ride-sharing apps.
The RideScout acquisition closed on September 2, while the mytaxi deal closed on August 29. RideScout will become part of Daimler's car2go subsidiary, a car-sharing service currently available in 26 cities worldwide.
Daimler's primary competitors are BMW and Audi. It's also looking to get the world's first self-driving truck on the road in five years.