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There’s Never Been More Money Pouring Into Mobility Startups

The billions of dollars betting on ride-hailing and car-sharing companies will shape the future of transportation.

The shift in technology that has drawn billions of dollars into autonomous driving has also spurred investors to pile into businesses that specialize in sharing cars, summoning rides, and even borrowing bikes. Taken together, this new model for the mobility-as-a-service business continues to grow at a startling pace and move into new markets.

The growth comes even as companies navigate tighter regulations. In the past four months, a new report released Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance found, 11 jurisdictions in Europe, the U.S., Australia and elsewhere implemented restrictions on digital-hailing companies. “Despite all the increasing legal challenges against unfettered ride-hailing, we continue to see additional investment in the sector,” said Ali Izadi-Najafabadi, who manages BNEF's intelligent mobility team.

The new BNEF report attempts to size up this industry. Here are four key takeaways.

1. Mobility startups pocketed $28 billion from investors last year.

In the last quarter of 2017 alone, ride-hailing companies such as Uber Technologies Inc. and China-based Didi Chuxing raised an all-time record of $15.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance report.

Softbank Group Corp. played a big role in the spending binge at the end of last year by making three large-scale moves: a $1.1 billion funding round in Indian taxi hailing company Ola, the purchase of a 15 percent stake in Uber, and participation in a $4 billion financing of Didi in December.

The beginning of 2018 has already seen major moves pointing to another intense quarter: Google recently invested in Go-Jek, the biggest ride-hailing service in Indonesia; and BMW bought out the European car-sharing venture DriveNow. In addition, big oil companies are making moves into the space. JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy, an oil refiner and distributor in Japan, is exploring starting an electric car sharing service at its gas stations to help offset expected declines in oil revenues.

2. The top five ride-hailing companies are now worth $129 billion.

That record financing has helped turn ride-hailing businesses into some of the most valuable private companies in the world. The total valuation of the top five digital hailing companies are valued at more than $129 billion as of January 19, according to BNEF, more than the combined market capitalization of General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co.

3. The number of ride-hailing users races towards 1 billion.

Despite increased regulation, ride-hailing companies increased their reach around the globe. At the end of last year, the report found, there were 24 million drivers working in the industry. The number of passengers using digital hailing apps worldwide skyrocketed to 769 million by the end of 2017, according to BNEF estimates, which marked a 28 percent increase from just six months earlier.

4. Smarter cars are here—and that will speed up the arrival of self-driving cars.

Carmakers are adding cameras and radar sensors for tech-assisted driving functions such as changing lanes, collision warning and assisted parking. There were radar sensors on 41 million new cars and light trucks sold in 2017. Automakers can collect data from the components that allow them to accelerate the development of autonomous driving.

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