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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.