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ReachNow began testing its Ride service last December in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo)

BMW’s ReachNow has moved onto the next phase of testing its Ride service that will compete with Uber and Lyft by letting customers hail rides, opening it up to all Seattle members.

ReachNow has been testing the service for the last six months and had about 2,000 members testing it. With the move to a beta test, ReachNow is inviting thousands more people to test and give feedback on the service.

The coverage map for ReachNow Ride. (ReachNow Photo)

By combining the ride-hailing functions of Uber and Lyft with the car-sharing function of something like car2go, ReachNow is positioning itself as a vehicular ecosystem for its users. Whether they want to drive or be driven, the goal is to make that possible in the same app, making it unnecessary to have multiple apps for different functions.

For now, those interested in testing the service will have to get a separate app, ReachNow+. Over the next few months, the plan is to combine the ride-hailing service and the original ReachNow app, the company’s CEO Steve Banfield told GeekWire.

The pickup areas include downtown Seattle and surrounding areas, but some parts of the city are not included. Drop offs can occur anywhere in the city and the Seattle Tacoma International Airport.

The limited map is similar to how ReachNow set up its car-sharing coverage in Seattle. The company started with a smaller home area and later expanded it to the entirety of the city limits and the airport.

“It’s a pretty standard process for us,” Banfield said. “We do this to make sure we are delivering great customer experience. Start in an area that’s a little smaller, make sure we’re getting everything right, make sure operationally we’ve got everything handled and then grow that over time until we cover the whole city.”

ReachNow’s service includes a per trip base fare of $1.00, a per minute rate of $0.30 and per mile rate of $1.80. A quick comparison shows that Ride’s prices are marginally higher than Uber and Lyft — both of which charge a base fare of $1.35, a per minute rate of $0.24, a per mile rate of $1.35 in Seattle and $1.65 booking fee.

With that slight premium comes perks. Ride won’t have surge pricing and gives people the ability to customize their rides. Riders can set the temperature in the car, as well as the radio station and even check a “do not disturb” status if they want to be left alone during the ride.

“It’s an incredible value for what you are getting,” Banfield said of the Ride service. “There will always be cheaper options out there to get around town, but we think when you get in the car you are making a choice that you are going to have a great experience. You know what you are going to get, that sense of certainty and expectation has real value to it.”

Ride riders will also be able to roll in style. All rides will be in a BMW X1 or BMW 3 Series versus the personal cars driven by Uber and Lyft drivers.

Drivers are an important part of the experience as well. Banfield, who has driven for Uber, noticed a lack of a standard of service from driver to driver and little connection to the company brand. ReachNow works with a third-party that finds, vets and trains drivers, and ReachNow gives brand experience training.

The pay structure is also different. In addition to receiving incremental compensation for the number of trips, ReachNow drivers are paid an hourly rate. Pay for drivers at other ride-hailing companies comes directly from their fares.

“If we don’t invest in the human capital side, and we are not trying to give the drivers a premium, better experience of being part of our family and our service, then how are they going to in turn deliver a premium experience for the member who is sitting in the back of that 3 Series,” Banfield said.

Customers have ingrained habits, and in order to effectively compete with Uber and Lyft, ReachNow will have to change those. Banfield said the goal is to build an experience good enough that people will see the value in paying a little more.

Overall, ReachNow has more than 50,000 members in Seattle, Portland and Brooklyn. Ride is only in Seattle at the moment, but the goal is to eventually expand the program to other cities.

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