DTE Harnesses SPLT’s Ride-Sharing App for New Commuter Program

SPLT, the Detroit-based ride-sharing app designed to connect people traveling similar routes so they can split taxi fare or the cost of gas, kicked off its first large-scale commuter program last week with DTE Energy.

SPLT, which recently finished a stint in Detroit’s Techstars incubator, is exploring mobility as a service with the DTE program, which will allow the utility company’s roughly 2,500 employees downtown to use SPLT’s app to arrange shared rides to work.

“The idea is to start with a pilot so SPLT can learn more about supporting an organization like ours [with at least 100 employees],” said Steve Baker, who works in IT strategy and innovation at DTE and also served as a mentor to SPLT while the startup was at Techstars. “It gives them a chance to learn and it gives our employees the opportunity to test ride-sharing.” If the three-month program is a success, he added, DTE will expand it.

DTE was interested in pursuing ride-sharing, Baker said, because it falls in line with the company’s main corporate mandates: to be “the best-operated energy company in North America” and to be a force for growth and prosperity in the communities in which DTE provides service. SPLT’s app matches commuting co-workers who live in the same area or who travel along the same route to work, and employees can choose to sign up as drivers, riders, or both. The goal, Baker said, is to be environmentally conscious while alleviating parking problems and congestion on the roads.

There’s a tangential benefit to ride-sharing as well, Baker said, because it fosters interactions between co-workers and lets them establish a deeper connection. “Using SPLT’s platform is a win-win for us,” he added. “It’s in our corporate DNA to be accepting of one another and welcoming to making new connections.”

Anya Babbitt, SPLT’s CEO, said she thinks DTE’s ride-sharing program has the potential to be a valuable employee engagement tool. “We see a lot of great benefits in putting people together from different departments to see what ideas emerge,” she said. “It’s a great way for people to come together, and I think mentorship will evolve as a natural byproduct of ride-sharing.”

Babbitt said she wants to fully explore the corporate use case for SPLT’s ride-sharing app before it launches in the consumer marketplace. SPLT is currently working with Honda in Ohio and Magna International in Troy, MI, on similar, custom ride-sharing initiatives, and Babbitt said more corporate customers are on a waiting list for their own commuter program. “It will be exciting to see the metrics on user adoption,” she said.

SPLT decided to relocate to Detroit from New York City after the inaugural Techstars cohort wrapped in September because Babbitt and her team felt fully embraced by the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“New York has its own energy, but Detroit is something I’d never experienced before,” she said, describing the warmth and spirit of collaboration she encountered. “Midwestern hospitality is really unique, and it empowered us to want to stay. The level of access we’ve been granted is really inspiring.”

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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