It isn’t always easy to get around in the big cities of the Middle East. Most drivers find themselves struggling against heavy traffic and long commutes on a daily basis. However, things have begun to change for these busy commuters thanks to smart transportation, which leverages the power of the Internet to make transportation more efficient.
In the Middle East, smart transportation is helping people save time and money, and in some cases, it’s providing more eco-friendly ways to get around. Leading this paradigm shift is the region’s entrepreneurs, who are establishing businesses that tackle the most persistent challenges with all types of transportation.
From bicycle sharing apps to car rental platforms, here are seven of the most innovative transportation startups in the Middle East today:
Entrepreneurs Hashem Merghany and Ismail Sabry developed Cycliste to make it easier for Egyptians to share and rent bicycles. Through the startup’s mobile application, users can determine the location of the nearest bicycle and unlock it with a unique QR code located on the frame. For a low rental fee, they can ride the bike around town and leave it at their destination. This eliminates the hassle of maintaining their own bicycles or worrying about theft. Bicycle owners can also rent their unused bikes to the startup, which allows them to make extra money throughout the year.
In Cairo, the typical middle-class person refrains from using public transportation due to issues with safety, reliability, and cost-effectiveness. Local startup Buseet is addressing these problems by offering an alternative method of transportation: private shuttle buses. Customers can choose their pick-up and drop-off locations, departure and return times, and booking type to find a shuttle that can take them to their destination. Buseet features both economy and premium seating, so users can choose to ride in luxury or simply get where they need to go. This setup makes commuting cheaper than driving a car and delivers a more comfortable, safer experience than traditional public transportation.
Headquartered in Dubai, eZhire is changing the way Emiratis rent cars. Instead of requiring customers to fill out lengthy paperwork, eZhire simply asks for a driver’s license, identification card, or passport to verify identity. Users input this information to the eZhire mobile application, then browse through a list of rental cars. From small sedans to luxury vehicles, users can rent the car that best accommodates their budgets.
To eliminate additional hassle, eZhire delivers its cars to users and allows them to extend their rental periods at any time. Once they no longer need the car, they can schedule a collection directly through the app.
With hundreds of thousands of vehicles entering Lebanon’s capital city of Beirut each day, the team behind Carpolo is tackling traffic by developing an app that makes it easier to carpool. The platform began under the name Tulos and provided a way for university students to find carpool partners. After winning the Samir and Claude Abillama Eco-Entrepreneurship Award and its prize of $20,000, the startup grew into Carpolo and expanded its focus beyond school campuses.
The app is providing Beirut metro area residents with an affordable, trustworthy—and more eco-friendly—alternative to commuting alone. The app also has a game component with a points system that rewards users for carpooling.
Baddel is the first startup of its kind to facilitate electronic bike sharing in the MENA region. People in the seaside resort of El Gouna, Egypt, can rent a bicycle at one of the startup’s 11 docking stations. By using the Baddel mobile application to scan a QR code on the rear of the bike, users can unlock their ride and take it anywhere in El Gouna. Each bike is equipped with an electric motor that can travel 40 kilometers per charge, so riders can take a break from peddling if they wish.
The Greater Cairo area is well known for its traffic-clogged streets, and it’s clear that commuters need more efficient ways to travel. Local startup Bus Pooling provides an alternative to traditional commutes by allowing people to schedule door-to-door bus pickups. The service matches each user with people who are traveling similar routes to form commute groups, and then determines a schedule. Users simply pay a monthly subscription fee in exchange for a reliable, door-to-door ride within the city.
UAE-based car rental app eKar is eliminating much of the inconvenience of car ownership while making it easier for Emiratis to move around Dubai. Leveraging a fleet of the newest car models, the startup allows users to rent a car for minutes, days, or even a month at a time. Using the mobile app, customers pick up their eKar at one of the startup’s lots throughout the greater Dubai area, and return it when they’re done.