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Careem and Next Will Bring Electric Taxi Pods to UAE in 2020

17 August, 2016
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The UAE-born car booking service, Careem, along with the US startup Next Future Transportation Inc., have teamed up in a futuristic partnership that hopes to push electric modular vehicles into the mainstream of transportation.

The size of each module is 2.7m long, fitting ten passengers; six seated and four standing. Like any other car, they require no extra infrastructure on the road.

The modules can connect to each other on the highway and conjoining doors can open up, allowing people to switch seats to maximize efficiency in transportation.

The VP of Business Development at Careem, Bassel Nahlawi, explains the system: assuming there's someone on the east side of a highway, and another on the west, both of these people pull up their Careem app and each request a module come pick them up and drop them up somewhere else. So one module comes from the east and the other comes from the west, eventually both modules get back on the highway connecting with other modules. Once connected, passengers are told to move to the modules connected to move to the requested destinations, and as they do so the modules will disconnect to head to the destinations they're dedicated for.

"It can be with a driver, or driverless. For the time being we're recommending that we kick off with a driver, and we’ll try the driverless when the technology is socially accepted," says Nahlawi.

The UAE is expected to start witnessing these electric modules by 2020, however driverless pods will take longer than that. 

"The notion is not new, there are many companies that are piloting the new technology of driverless vehicles. However, I think we’re not that close to seeing these driverless cars on the road," says Nahlawi. 

These modules are electric; they work on batteries and could be charged while moving. Therefore they have a positive impact on environment, says Nahlawi. With no fossil fuel aspect to the modules, there will be no production of carbon dioxide.

Another strength of the project is in the partnership itself. Instead of going out there and building a new app from scratch, Next decided to benefit from Careem's existing functional app with the largest customer database in the region from Morocco to Pakistan, Nahlawi explained. 

"For us, Careem, instead of going out there and creating the research and development of vehicles specifically for driverless technologies, we’re getting a leading partner who has a first-of-its-kind technology right now. Modular technology is not something you have seen anywhere in the world, it's the first of its kind. So you can imagine how much we both are saving by partnering with each other. We are skipping the research and development of the driverless technology and they’re skipping the research and development of the dispatching technology."

Careem does not have a corporate social responsibility department, but says it was built on the mission to simplify the lives of people. "Everything we do is a CSR approach, especially that transportation in our region is not as developed as other parts of the world," says Nahlawi.

Examples of Careem's social responsibility is when they gave out free rides for everyone around Sulafa Tower in Dubai Marina when fire broke out a month ago, and when a plane crash happened at Dubai airport and a state of emergency was announced.

During Eid, in their Be Careem ("be generous") campaign when Careem matched every trip value to the driver, or as they prefer to call themcaptainwho drives the car. "We are built for this reason, the whole mission of this company is to help people," Nahlawi concluded.

Image courtesy of Careem

Tags MENA Because social enterprise CSR volunteering NGO Careem taxi pods driverless cars Next Future Transportation Inc transport innovation