New transportation application wins Israeli government grant, set for pilot project in Eilat
A new start-up is gearing up to transform the way people travel, by getting individuals from point A to B according to their on-demand needs. Whether by car, ride-sharing service, public transit or even walking—or a combination of them—RouteValet’s multimodal application puts the commuter in the driver’s seat by using real-time data to offer every possible option for getting to any destination.
Money a bit tight this month? Then perhaps an extra 20 minutes on the bus is preferable to spending an additional $10 on an Uber. Running late for a meeting? Then ditch the car before hitting gridlock and instead live life in the fast lane (literally) on a shuttle the rest of the way to the office.
While today there are literally hundreds of transportation options at people’s finger tips, none of them are integrated into one unique mobility ecosystem.
“Let’s say you’re at the airport and you want to get to your hotel. You’ve got options ranging from Uber, Lyft, Grab, and Ola to buses, trains or maybe you want to rent a car,” RouteValet co-founder and CEO Motti Sigel explained to The Media Line. “Our app collects the data from all of these and combines them to provide the user with the best option for them.
“If you have a few extra minutes and can make a transfer [to save some money], then choose to take a shuttle for a while and then a taxi will be waiting for you where you indicated. If you’re not interested in doing that because it’s raining, for example, no problem because we’ve tapped into these data sources and can tell you that Uber currently has surge pricing whereas Grab has fixed rates and is one minute closer. So we’ll grab you a Grab.”
Not only is the individual empowered to get where they want, when they want, how they want, but so too are the cities, as the application provides transit operators with the tools to maximize the use of their fleets, thereby reducing operating costs and, of course, traffic, which, in turn, benefits everyone.
“It is a win-win-win solution,” according to Ilan Friedson, RouteValet’s other co-founder and Chief Technology Officer. “The lives of those who use the app will improve by allowing them to get where they want more efficiently. We’re also making things better for cities because they will be better using their transit resources. And lastly, even those who do not use the app will indirectly benefit as there will be less congestion on the roads.”
Recent studies suggest an inverse correlation between levels of happiness and daily commute times. In other words, the longer people travel each day to and from wherever they are going, the unhappier they are likely to be. As a point of reference, the average daily commute for many Americans has surpassed one hour, whereas it is currently two hours for car-driving Parisians and about five for Beijingers.
There is, then, an obvious need to which RouteValet is providing a way, gaining momentum after having this month won a prestigious $250,000 research and development grant from the Israel Innovation Authority, a sub-section of the Ministry of Economy spearheaded by the country’s Chief Scientist. The body’s mission is to seek out start-ups that meet the dual-criteria of having created a totally new, proprietary technology that can also serve as a growth engine for the Israeli economy.
Essentially a zero-interest, infinite-term loan, the funds are paid back out of profits generated by the company, but never exceeding 3 percent of annual earnings-after-taxes. Accordingly, the process of obtaining a grant is grueling, requiring the pre-approval of a multi-year comprehensive business plan coupled with an in-depth analysis of the technology’s inner workings. The company hopes to use the backing as a spring-board to generate further investment through other private and public partnerships.
For RouteValet the timing could not be better, coming only three months before the launch of its first pilot project in the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat. That opportunity was secured in December through a competition held by behemoth General Electric, which was so impressed with RouteValet’s technology that it bypassed one of its own key requirements in awarding the company the prize.
“Tip of the hat to GE because they saw our solution for Eilat and they actually forewent the need to use their [internally-developed] platform. It was very generous of them,” Friedson said.
In fact, Eilat is an ideal site for RouteValet’s launch for various reasons, including the city’s construction of a new international airport which will dramatically change the flow of traffic. This will necessitate adjustments based on the accumulation of data, which is RouteValet’s bread and butter. Moreover, Eilat is increasingly becoming known as a ‘smart city’ and is enthusiastic about incorporating new technologies into its urban landscape.
“As our partner, the city of Eilat is going to help us launch our app and getting the word out is a dream for any young technology company,” Sigel stressed. “In exchange, we’re providing Eilat not only with mobility information but also with a revenue share. And they can now use the anonymized data in their future planning decisions.
“Are they going to turn that traffic circle into traffic lights? Which roads are they going to widen when they get budgets? Where—and this is our core business—are the dynamic buses going to go? The city of Eilat has 176 bus stops and it’s a small city of only 60,000 people. So RouteValet’s technology is going to allow them to make the best use of their existing fleet of vehicles.”
RouteValet is already plugged into Israel’s information pipeline, having been approved by the Ministry of Transportation to receive GPS data from all public buses, meaning that no physical infrastructure needs to be installed in Eilat in advance of the project’s launch.
“On the back-end we take in [Israel’s] data and add it to our own,” Friedson expounded. “We use a little magic with our algorithms and then when a person using the app makes a request the system will look at all the information that we’ve aggregated and come up with the best solution.”
For now, Sigel and Friedson are busy planning next steps from their Jerusalem-based shared office space. Their company was recently accepted by into a program run by Siftech, a not-for-profit accelerator that fosters the growth of high-tech companies in the Israeli capital. As a result, RouteValet has access to some of the best minds in the business, as it aims to be up-and-transporting in 4-5 cities within the next six months.
“We’re fortunate to be doing this at a time when there is an awareness of the value not only in dollars and cents but also in terms of social equity,” Sigel concluded. “We’re making it a win-win-win by design. We’re not trying to control the market. We’re trying to enable the market. We’re putting people first.”