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Alto: Redefining the ride-hailing experience with Google Maps Platform

About Alto

Alto is a ride-hailing company where drivers are W-2 employees, rather than a network of independent contractors. Founded in 2018, it operates fleets in the U.S.

Industries: Travel & Hospitality, Transportation
Location: United States

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About Navagis

Navagis is a Google Maps Platform and Google Cloud Partner helping enterprises to transform their operations with location intelligence, data discovery, ML, and visualization.

Google Maps Platform enables Alto to deliver a safe, consistent, high-quality ride for passengers with accurate and intuitive in-app navigation features for drivers.

Google Cloud results

  • Routes drivers to exact pickup locations, so customers never wait more than 15 minutes for their ride
  • Ensures a safer ride by allowing drivers to use one app for optimized routes and updated pickup requests
  • Improves fleet efficiency by directing drivers to the optimum passengers for the fleet
  • Enables the business to run on a lean fleet that is 10x smaller than competitors while maintaining service quality

Ride-hailing is an intensely competitive business, but Dallas-based Alto is up for the challenge. Founded in 2018, the company distinguishes itself in a few ways: whereas other ride-hailing services operate with a network of independent contractors, all Alto drivers are W-2 employees and the company owns all of the cars, Buick and Volkswagen SUVs, which are centrally dispatched and warehoused. This approach aligns with the company’s values to provide a safe, clean, consistent, and high-quality experience for every passenger, because customers know what to expect with every ride: from the kind of car to how long it will take for it to arrive.

Alto is growing swiftly and plans to quadruple its current headcount of 1,200 employees. But it’s still smaller than the more established ride-hailing companies it competes against. To keep up, Alto has to work smarter and more efficiently, which it aims to do by leveraging Google Maps Platform geolocation services.

Prevents delays, eliminating 90% of customer complaints

"Using Google Maps Platform is a win for our company because we manage our fleet more efficiently. It’s also a win for our drivers who can see exactly where they’re going and how best to get there. And it’s a win for our customers who get their rides faster."

Jonathan Campos, Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Engineering, Alto

"From a technology standpoint, we looked at Google Maps Platform compared with other competitors based on latency, time to deployment, and number of locations it covers," says Jonathan Campos, Alto’s Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Engineering. "Initially, a lot of the numbers seemed to line up the same. However, once we started using a competitor, we had numerous responses from customers about issues they faced. We knew something needed to change, and Google Maps Platform emerged as the solution."

Creating exact pickup locations so customers are never left waiting

One of the issues riders faced when using the previous solution was imprecise pickup points. Drivers were directed to the back entrance of a hotel or an alleyway near the address provided by the passenger, which required extra driving time or contact with the customer to determine the proper pickup point. By switching to Google Maps Platform and using the Places API, drivers can see the passenger’s exact reported location as soon as they accept that ride, preventing delays. "We had an OKR to bring down complaints by 50% and the final number was closer to 90%, which means that complaints from customers have almost vanished. It’s clear Google Maps Platform raised the quality of our services," says Campos.

Driver view of pickup location

But Alto has fairly complex requirements to create its high-quality services, and to help with the design and deployment of Alto’s custom application, it brought in Navagis, a Google Maps Platform and Google Cloud Partner. "The good thing about Google Maps Platform is it has the capability to build and automate many business processes that fit into the routing engine and dispatches. We can address whatever requirement Alto has by leveraging the APIs that are unique to Google Maps Platform," says Jojo Guingao, Chief Solutions Officer at Navagis.

Freeing up employees to focus on tasks that can’t be automated

Something else Alto no longer has to contend with is manually inputting custom areas. Custom areas are locations from which riders frequently request a pickup that are not necessarily on the map yet. They could be anything from a new restaurant to a parking lot temporarily turned into a farmer’s market.

"As we focus on getting passengers safely from point A to point B in the quickest and most energy-efficient way possible, Google Maps Platform plays an integral part in our business because there’s no way to operate as smoothly without it."

Jonathan Campos, Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Engineering, Alto

Before switching to Google Maps Platform, the Alto general manager and other local leads manually added those temporary locations to the company’s maps system, which numbered in the thousands. With Google Maps Platform, 98.9% (all but 20) of those temporary locations have been deleted because they were outdated. The ones that remain are very specific to Alto, for instance, "Alto Happy Hour Location." Now, employees can spend time focusing on other parts of the business that cannot be automated, such as managing fellow team-members with the attention they deserve.

Improving drivers’ efficiency with Routes

Not only does Google Maps Platform support passenger pickup, but also the journey drivers take to get there. Alto communicates to its customers that a car will be at their door in 10 minutes. They count on that consistency and do not have to look at their phone wondering if the driver is three minutes away or 13 minutes away. In order to create that customer experience, Alto uses Routes to find the closest car to each passenger, but also to optimize its entire fleet.

Driver view of exact route

Sometimes another car becomes available that’s closer to a rider and the driver gets routed to them instead. Alto relies on Routes to understand who is closest, saving time for the driver and minimizing the distance traveled. This level of optimization means the company is able to operate on a lean fleet that’s one tenth the size of their competitors, while still serving the same size area and maintaining a consistent experience for customers. "Using Google Maps Platform is a win for our company because we manage our fleet more efficiently. It’s also a win for our drivers who can see exactly where they’re going and how best to get there. And it’s a win for our customers who get their rides faster," says Campos.

Enabling smooth rides with On-demand Rides and Deliveries Solution

Next, Alto will be using the On-demand Rides and Deliveries Solution, a Google Maps Platform development toolkit for building on-demand mobility solutions, to provide real-time tracking of maps in-app. This will bring driver navigation into Alto’s app, so they no longer need to rely on a separate application while driving.

"This gives us a huge advantage, where previously drivers would lose context as they went from our application to Google Maps," says Campos. "Information about the pickup location and the name of the customer would remain separate from the driving route. Now, with the On-demand Rides and Deliveries Solution, we’ll be able to get to not just that last mile, but to those last 30 feet."

"On-demand Rides and Deliveries Solution delivers a frictionless experience for the driver, ensures the passenger has a high-quality experience, and helps us keep our promise of consistency."

Jonathan Campos, Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Engineering, Alto

Riders will also be able to share their journeys and see the exact route the driver is taking. Due to traffic and other factors, even if two Google Maps users are headed to the same location, the map can dictate different steps, telling one to take the highway and the other a local road, for instance. With the On-demand Rides and Deliveries Solution, Alto riders will see the exact route the driver is taking and therefore feel reassured that the driver is taking them where they intend to go.

"On-demand Rides and Deliveries Solution delivers a frictionless experience for the driver, ensures the passenger has a high-quality experience, and helps us keep our promise of consistency," says Campos. "Google Maps Platform making this available to us is a life-changing progress. It will make our business run that much smoother."

Focusing on sustainability with an electric fleet

Moving forward, not only is Alto prioritizing the customer experience by improving routing techniques within Dynamic Maps, it also seeks to be as sustainable as possible by transitioning to an all-electric fleet. The company is determining the ins and outs of electric charging infrastructure, where charging locations will be, and which vehicle needs to be charged versus on the road. Alto plans to make their charging stations available to private companies that need to charge and maintain their electric vehicles, as well.

"As we focus on getting passengers safely from point A to point B in the quickest and most energy-efficient way possible, Google Maps Platform plays an integral part in our business because there’s no way to operate as smoothly without it," says Campos.

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Alto

Alto is a ride-hailing company where drivers are W-2 employees, rather than a network of independent contractors. Founded in 2018, it operates fleets in the U.S.

Industries: Travel & Hospitality, Transportation
Location: United States

About Navagis

Navagis is a Google Maps Platform and Google Cloud Partner helping enterprises to transform their operations with location intelligence, data discovery, ML, and visualization.