La'Zooz – a blockchain-based ridesharing app – was announced as “in development” during fall 2014. Eitan Katchka is a La'Zooz Israel-based developer, and has shared the project's most recent news with Cointelegraph: their first round of crowdfunding is set to begin in late April.
I asked Katchka some pretty probing questions about the intentions and prospects behind La'Zooz.
Cointelegraph: Uber has been under “legal” attack and even been banned by states all over the world. How will La'Zooz's central, Israel-based company avoid similar attacks?
Eitan Katchka: The La'Zooz app and service are open sourced, registered under GPL 3, and are not related to La'Zooz Mine The Gap LTD (registered in Israel), but to the La'Zooz open source, decentralized community.
The company’s board of directors is bound by a set of agreements to the community. These agreements do not allow the company to act without the order of the community. It doesn't mean governments won't be able to declare the service as illegal, but they will find it hard to stop.
On top of that, unlike Uber, La'Zooz offers a real ridesharing service, meaning the driver will offer to share a ride he/she is taking anyway. The riders just share the cost of the part of the ride they were sharing. This way the ride doesn't become a commercial ride, and hence has no effect on the driver's insurance, tax payments etc.
This "not for profit" model also prevents drivers from overloading already congested roads, usually at rush hours, by driving around in their empty cars looking for passengers to make their daily gain. This will also make it hard for governments to find a reason to stop the service, as no regulation is being violated.
CT: Will La'Zooz be a smart network or a dumb network?
EK: La'Zooz network is proud to be mainly a "dumb" network, utilizing decentralization and encryption of only the sensitive data (the matching between one's identity and her location and the payment itself). This will allow anyone at the edge to create their own services on top of the network, and use the information it holds as they find relevant.
You can think of it as a database of IDs and locations, in which matching the two can be used for any transportation service (ridesharing, delivery, shared moving services, limousine, taxi, on demand shuttles and more) that is using the same token as the network.
With open API's, La'Zooz network is aiming to become a smart-transportation (“smartportation”) marketplace for any third party to run its service on top of it, using zooz tokens.
CT: How is La'Zooz superior to services like Uber and Lyft?
EK: Decentralized innovation is enabling organic growth as opposed to linear growth of central organizations like Uber and Lyft. Much like the difference between a smart and a dumb network - Uber controls all the data and innovation power of its system, which weakens it.
By offering a real ridesharing service that by definition offers the lowest ride cost possible, La'Zooz opens itself to the largest market share possible, including public transportation users (and all others who can't afford taxi services on a daily basis).
Uber, Lyft and their like – even after cutting the costs of regulation – are still offering a smart taxi service, in which at least two entities need to profit (both drivers and service operators).
La'Zooz builds its network and getting the critical mass of users needed for the service to run, before launching, which minimes user disappointment by another non-active ridesharing service (which the app store is full of). We do that by creating not just a fun experience with an in-app currency and a payment solution to utilize it, but an all-new ecosystem that enables the system to reward its early adopters, developers and supporters.
Furthermore, a social matching algorithm will be used in order to make the best rider-driver match (getting a ride with like-minded people etc).
CT: What is the benefit of buying zooz tokens in your upcoming crowdsale?
EK: That would have to be:
- Taking part in the natural evolution process of transportation.
- Buying zooz tokens at the lowest rate that will ever be sold by the network (except of the early birds that took part in our previous pre-sale – we will share all the details of this sale before the launch of the crowd sale, of course.)
- Getting bonus zooz tokens distributed, according to the proportions of zooz holdings, for every development that will be made by the La’Zooz developers community 'til the La’Zooz protocol and service are activated.
- These same tokens will allow you to pay for transportation services the network will offer, or on exchanges.
CT: Does La'Zooz have its own blockchain, or does it use colored bitcoins?
CT: Will ride orders be placed on the blockchain, as well, or just the payments?
EK: In today’s application market, app response time is a crucial ingredient at the user experience level. Therefore we can not be bound by block times to get data concerning location of users. (We will look in the near future about implementation of Factom for this need.)
Payment and the connection between users' ID and their location will be decentralized, as it is private and sensitive data that shouldn't be accessible or controlled by any centralized entity.
CT: Where do you think La'Zooz will take off first? Why?
EK: Though the most intuitive answer would be here in Israel, where we have the most accessible networking, we have several connections already around the globe (Moscow and Amsterdam to name a few). In these places, La’Zooz can catch on even before that.
Moscow, for example, has all the groundwork being done, as paid hitchhiking is a common practice throughout the city and there's plenty of traffic jams to relieve. We have a connection there who is just waiting for the app to be ready (and for the government to become more Bitcoin-friendly...)
Of course, as La'Zooz runs as a DAO [decentralized autonomous organization], any hub or community around the world can use it. We aim at developing a high level of gamification for the mining app that will turn the achievement of a critical mass of users, and the launch of the ridesharing service, into a real "life-changing game.”
The “frontier” of ridesharing lies both in payments and in data treatment. Payments are – at least with Uber – restricted not only to fiat, but to a credit card (though to their high credit, Lyft takes Gyft cards, which are payable in Bitcoin).
Payment alternatives notwithstanding, La'Zooz's Eitan Katchka brings up a worthy point: the privacy of data. A central repository with unencrypted user data is a magnet for criminal hackers, both state and non-state affiliated. End-to-end encrypted user data is paramount.
Combine these factors with the insidious “legal” attacks launched on Uber and Lyft around the world, and La'Zooz offers a promising prospect indeed.
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