After introducing their map view upgrade, Egypt-based application Bey2ollak – which crowdsources user-generated data on traffic conditions – has released a new upgrade to help its users calculate accurate taxi fares. Arguments with taxi drivers over the price of a trip are not unusual in Egypt, as many drivers do not have a working meter installed or opt to not turn their meters on while they drive, preferring to negotiate a price with the riders.
“The upgrade will help increase our market segment,” says Bey2ollak’s cofounder Waleed Mostafa , highlighting that the original users of Bey2ollak are those who own cars and not those who take taxis. In order to understand how the official taxi meter works, company representatives consulted with taxi drivers and officials at the Egyptian General Directorate of Traffic. According to Mostafa, the application uses mobile devices’ GPS system through which the distance and the time spent in a cab is calculated.
“There are two different rates; one while the taxi is moving and a lesser one when it is sitting in traffic,” Mostafa adds. “Through the GPS, the movements are calculated accurately which yields a correct fare.”
Mostafa explains that the upgrade was in beta and tested by actual users for about a year. When Bey2ollak realized that the results were accurate, the company made the announcement.
Kareem Helmee, a user of the application, says that the feature has been there for a while and he uses it whenever he gets into a cab to make sure the meter is working properly. The application, which has some 1.3 million users, is expecting the taxi meter upgrade to reach 50,000 to 70,000 new users within the coming year.
— Mustafa (@_camara_) 19 November 2015
After Google Maps launched its real-time traffic feature in Egypt, some questioned Bey2ollak’s ability to stay relevant. The Google feature notifies the users on traffic on their chosen route and updates the trip timing accordingly. “I used to use Bey2ollak but after Google traffic updates, I rarely do anymore,” says Helmee.
Bey2ollak’s co-founder, however, believes that Google is not his company’s competitor. “I am not competing with Google [Maps],” Mostafa says, arguing that Bey2ollak talked to its users who said that Google Maps is mainly used for navigation not traffic updates.
The company’s executive said that unlike Bey2ollak, Google does not keep live posts on what is causing the traffic congestion such as construction work, accidents or regular traffic jams.
Bey2ollak’s team has been working on new ways to improve their users experience through adding new features.
One of these features, Mostafa explains, is the notification sent to the app users to help them save the battery life of their mobile phones.
“We are trying to make the app smarter,” he says, explaining that when the app notices that the user is stuck in traffic it notifies him to turn it off.
Another feature is named Shaklak Saye2 (which translates to ‘It looks like you’re driving’), and notifies the user to get traffic updates through the app, when it realizes you’re in motion.
Another recent feature was introduced to the metro users around a month ago which updates users on how crowded the metro is or if the metro is suspended for any reason. The updates are accompanied with user comments to keep others in the loop as well.
Meanwhile, Bey2ollak has found several other uses, especially in the wake of Egypt’s revolution, early 2011: “the app was at the center of self-organized communities reporting on road closures and protest routes, allowing drivers to re-route their travels, journalists and activists to locate (and join) demonstrations and passers-by to avoid clashes. With security services almost non-existent during the volatile weeks that followed the initial uprising, Bey2ollak introduced a ‘Danger’ option so that users could warn others of unsafe areas, as well as a ‘Help Me’ option that redirected users to a database of useful numbers (from an army hotline to the direct lines to human rights lawyers). In 2013, widespread gas shortages saw another temporary feature emerge on Bey2ollak, wherein users would report on which stations were out of gas, which had unbearable lines and which were fully stocked. Another update in 2015, when a spate of random bombings dominated Cairo’s headlines, saw Bey2ollak’s social media team aggregate app-based data to broadcast the locations of detonations and subsequent road closures using a special hashtag.”
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