How HQ’s Machine Learning Powers Accurate Ride Price Predictions

April 6, 2023
Daniel Leon Stern

At HQ, our business model is based on transparency for our clients and supplier partners. It’s been our modus operandi since day one and remains intrinsic to how we operate. Over the last twenty-five years, we’ve built relationships with our Fortune 500 clients based on this mindset. We see ourselves, and equally want to be seen, as a partner rather than a provider.

At a time of changing market dynamics, recession fears, inflation, and market volatility, transparency is business critical. In particular, providing your employees, and travel managers, with access to the right information at the right time to make informed decisions.

It’s about empowering your employees so they have the freedom and flexibility to manage their ground travel arrangements autonomously. At the same, proactively ensuring they are mindful of ride prices. That is why accurate ride price estimations are essential.

In this blog, we’ll be taking a detailed look at our most recent HQ SummitGround product enhancement. More specifically, how we leverage historical ride data with machine learning and AI to provide accurate, inclusive final ride price estimations at the time of booking.

This brand-new feature narrows the gap between the base rate and the invoiced ride. In turn, removing unexpected, hidden costs only captured during the billing process.

The Status Quo

For ground transportation, traditionally the ride price presented at the time of booking formed the basis for decision-making. Employees review the different mobility providers presented, and select a supplier often with the lowest, and most competitive, ride price. However, the base rate shown can very often exclude gratuity, taxes, toll charges, and other additional charges.

This creates an inconsistency in pricing between car suppliers as certain ride options may include additional charges while others do not. For base rate-only rides, it is not until the final supplier invoice is received that the true cost of the journey can be understood.

The Problem

Ride prices play a critical role in decision-making as employees decide between suppliers based on the car supplier quote/quoted rate. Without a standardized way of presenting rides at the time of booking it is not possible to compare suppliers in a way that’s accurate, and fair. For example, certain suppliers present ride prices with tax included. At the same time, other suppliers add these additional costs only afterward.

This makes it impossible to compare and contrast suppliers due to the inconsistency in pricing. Furthermore, this has the potential to provide ‘unhealthy’ incentives to car providers as the lower their quoted rate, the cheaper they look to those unfamiliar with the additional costs that make a final ride price.

The Solution


Ultimately, it is this gap in quoted ride prices that we are bridging. We want our clients, and their employees, to have a clearer understanding of the true cost of rides. The irony is, as confirmed by our team of data scientists, that often the cheapest, lowest price at the time of booking can be far more expensive than a slightly higher ride price from an alternative supplier. We want to ensure that the price presented is as close as possible to what clients will really pay. In doing so, decisions are made when seeing the full picture, not only the outline.

Powered by machine learning, AI, and HQ’s extensive historical ride data, our latest HQ SummitGround product update accurately estimates in real-time the inclusive, final ride rate. Employees are therefore able to make more informed decisions with greater accuracy.

For procurement teams, predictable ride rates make it possible both to uncover potential savings and proactively cut costs. For employees, they are equipped with transparency on all ride details, including routes, vehicle types, and full prices – all from a single platform. It’s about leveraging technology with transportation to move from a fragmented to a frictionless ground travel experience.

What does this mean for suppliers?

The benefit of enhanced visibility and all-inclusive ride price estimations does not stop at the feet of our clients and their employees. It also benefits suppliers as they seek to win long-term contracts, and build trust. Presenting accurate, and representative ride prices during the booking process form a culture of honesty whereby inflated ride prices are easily spotted.

As our ride price estimations aim to accurately predict the real price, we’re encouraging a more open, and transparent ecosystem that benefits suppliers and clients alike. As part of this commitment to transparency, we will always present the car supplier quote alongside the HQ ride price estimation and final ride price estimation.

What is HQ advantage?

As the industry-leading end-to-end enterprise solution for corporate mobility, HQ is in a unique position when it comes to the handling of ground transportation data. Unlike other ground transportation solutions, the HQ SummitGround platform manages everything, from booking and billing to payment processing. This has been crucial to the creation of the ride price prediction model, powered by AI and Machine Learning, as we are responsible for both ride reservations, and ride invoices.

From this informed place, we analyze historical ride prices, invoices, ride types, specific geography, pick-up and drop-off locations, and numerous other features used to predict ride prices. Moreover, our understanding and relationship with the car providers themselves, including their historic ride prices, and pricing models.

It is this depth of knowledge, expertise, and data – spanning multiple geographies and accounting for millions of rides – that informs the accuracy of our ride price estimations. During the prediction process, the model also estimates the uncertainty related to the prediction itself. In the case of numerous errors, we will not present ride price estimates to avoid presenting erroneous and inaccurate estimations.

HQ has a unique advantage as traditional ground transportation companies are only able to report on rides and costs based on supplier quotes, rather than the final ride prices. Therein lies an inherent discrepancy that impacts all subsequent reporting as the price difference is identified only afterward, and not during the booking process. From this perspective, our clients gain greater accuracy, and transparency for both day-to-day ride bookings and more strategic decision-making.

How does HQ use machine learning?

Let’s get technical for a moment. So far we’ve mentioned how machine learning can create realistic, inclusive ride price estimations. To achieve this our team of data scientists adheres to the machine learning process and pipeline. As written above, this involves gathering historical ride data, including geographical details, and additional information related to the vehicle, route, car provider, and client.

From here, we prepare the data, and then clean, structure, and enrich the raw data into a desired format. The process of engineering, working, and processing the data itself is by far the most challenging and rigorous, and is the foundation for creating and training the model itself. At this point, we test and evaluate the model, return to the data, collect new data, make changes, add features, and create a new model for further evaluation.

Typically, the cycle repeats as we improve the model performance for greater and greater accuracy in our ride-price estimations. Following this, we move to the final deployment and monitoring stages. At this point, new data continuously flows into the model to ensure we are adaptive and responsive to changing marketing conditions, including rising fuel costs and surcharges, for maximum precision.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it! We’re very excited to bring even greater ride price transparency and spend visibility to our clients. This latest update enables further opportunities for cost control by displaying inclusive final ride prices. In doing so, we’re making it easier to compare car providers in real time with HQ SummitGround so your ride bookings remain within budget and factor in additional costs beyond the base rate. All of this while placing price transparency and spend visibility front and center.

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