Careem has recently announced a strategic partnership with NEXT Future Transportation to bring ‘battery-powered, self-driving electric modules’ to the Middle East and North Africa.
The deal followed UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s initiative to make 25% of all transportation trips in Dubai smart and driverless by 2030.
The modules are described as a modular transport system that can drive individually or by attaching to others to form a bus-like structure. This allows passengers to move between each vehicle.
“It’s more than driverless cars. It’s modular, electric and driverless”
Careem’s leading competitive advantage is its app. The company has built a valuable product for the region, and NEXT acknowledged this value.
CXM World had the pleasure to speak with Bassel Al Nahlaoui who is in charge of VP Business Development and Government Relations at Careem.
“Congestion is a big problem in the Middle East. There are many players in our ride-hailing industry. Today we lead that race in the region because we understand the landscape and our customers better,” says Bassel for CXM World.
“There are many players globally in the ride-hailing industry”
Careem’s driverless, modular, electric modules will minimise the number of cars in the streets. At the same time, given the weather in the Gulf region, these modules will still provide the service a private car can provide.
How do electric modules really work?
“Let’s imagine you are on the east side of Sheikh Zayed Road, and someone else is on the west side. You open your Careem app, ask for a module, it comes to pick you up. Someone else asks for a module from JLT. You get on the Sheikh Zayed Road and there is another 8 of these modules, that happen to be there at the same time. What happens is these modules will connect to each other. They form a bus-looking vehicle,” Bassel explains.
“Why does technology do this? It’s because it might have picked 4 people from Dubai Marina. One wants to go to downtown, the other wants to go to Sharjah, the third wants to go to Deira. Once we connect, the doors open up, and you are instructed to switch modules. So the first module will now head to Downtown, and everyone will walk to the first module. People who want to go to Sharjah will go to the second module. And people who want to go to Deira will go to the third module. Instead of being in a bus that stops at each stop, or in a taxi or even carpool, where you have to stop at every single location, making the trip much longer for the person, you minimised the time in these modules and you are still being able to be dropped at the door,” Al Nahlaoui adds.
Careem is actually combining the beauty of the public transport or metro or a bus with advantages of having your own car coming and picking you up. With electric modules, you get same advantages of having one car or two cars versus twelve cars picking twelve people. It’s a revolution.
“Once we put it in motion, governments will love this”
Will the modules be affordable for everyone?
“We haven’t run these numbers yet. I think it should be more affordable than the regular taxi. Because at the end of the day it’s still a pooling concept or a public transport concept. You are getting into a vehicle with more than one person. You are sharing that space,” Bassel says. “However, it’s picking you up from your doorstep and dropping you off at the doorstep of the location you want to go to. So it should have some premium still,” he adds.
“It’s the technology. It’s the convenience of just picking up your app, car coming to your door, you paying without putting your hand in your pocket. It’s the ultimate experience. It’s the customer experience”
In the Western countries, many taxi drivers are scared of similar ride-hailing services such as Uber. However, cab drivers in the UAE are not afraid of Careem,
“I tell you from data, so it’s not an opinion. Today in Careem, 7 to 8 customers out of 10 have never taken a taxi before. These are people who own cars. But they are not going for Careem because of the black or white Lexus, they are using us because of the Careem technology and its convenience” Bassel explains.
“It’s really raising the bar. You can see in a lot of other countries, all of a sudden, taxi drivers are saying: ‘Oh, we need to provide better service!’”
Now the competition is better, the standards are moving up. It’s better for everyone. It’s win-win, for the customers and government.