After Launching Services in 21 Countries, Via Founders Come Home to Tackle Israeli Traffic Jams
Israel’s notoriously congested roads sparked the idea that led the founders of carpooling firm Via to start the company. Now they’re planning to launch a pilot in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area
For daily updates, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here.“I was sitting at a taxi van in Tel Aviv on a Thursday night, and all seats were taken, of course,” he said in an interview with Calcalist held earlier this month. Both Shoval and Via co-founder and CEO Daniel Ramot are Israelis, and the company operates a development center in the country.
A: Not everyone can take the subway or the bus. New York has traffic congestion, and while projects to set up new public transportation lines take up a long time, population density changes quickly. The Second Avenue Subway just completed was decades in the making, the population boom in Brooklyn happened much more quickly. Public transportation systems do not respond fast enough to such changes.
You also need to take into account time-specific events that can impact traffic, like shows or sports events. What’s more, at different times in the day, different routes are required.The subway is an amazing solution for bringing people into the city, but the last mile also needs to be solved.Unlike other ride-hailing companies, Via has it easy when it comes to working with cities and local municipalities, according to Shoval. “We enable cities to make quick changes–the infrastructure we need is technological, not physical.” While in the past Via had to pitch its services to municipalities and regulators, today the initiative comes from the other side, he said. In Israel, the invite came from the country’s Ministry of Transportation. Q: Why have your own fleets when you can be a pure-play technology vendor?
A: the automotive world is very varied, and we believe flexibility offers the most potential. Our technology is evolving, and each city offers a different opportunity in terms of operation and business model. Via only needs a few days to analyze a city before it can launch its service, he said. The company works with city halls to decide on an operative plan. In a Via pilot recently started in Singapore, the local government predefined the exact streets in which it wants the fleet to operate, and Via adapted its system to the demands. The race to fully autonomous driving—where Israeli companies and technologies are punching above their weight—has also led companies to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in companies developing ride-sharing technology, Via among them. Shoval feels more attention should be given to another innovative automotive avenue—the electric vehicle, which he says is a massive revolution in terms of environmental impact.