Just when you thought Uber and Lyft were disrupting urban transport, La’Zooz is upping the ante by using the blockchain to decentralize its non-commercial, real-time ridesharing network. For users, this doesn’t only mean cheaper rides, but also a more social and enjoyable experience, where riders and drivers are matched by their common interests, among other factors.
The Israel-based company is a decentralized organization and does not use any paid PR services and marketing at this point. La’Zooz spoke to Cointelegraph as a team in line with the community spirit of their project, discussing their ridesharing vision, road mining and their current crowdsale.
“You can think of La’Zooz as replacing your car with your smartphone.”
— La’Zooz team member, Eitan Katchka
CT: What does the price of a La’Zooz ride include? How does it compare to using a conventional taxi or Uber?
La’Zooz Team: As the idea is to share the cost of the ride, the service is a noncommercial service (no profit for a driver more than the cover of the cost of the shared drive). That is, both driver and passenger enjoy not only a better commute experience, thanks to the social matching, but also the reduced fare of the ride, on the one hand, and the fact that less cars are on the roads, in the parking lots and on the street parking.
Therefore, the price of the ride is much lower than applications that offer a smart taxi service where both the driver and the operator need to profit from the service (like Uber, etc.). The difference is that La’Zooz believes in using wasted resources (empty seats) for the benefit of everyone, instead of adding vehicles (taxis) to the already crowded roads.
Using P2P payments through the blockchain also makes any processing fees as minimal as possible.
CT: What kind of factors will be considered when matching drivers and riders?
LT: Of course, the first level will be to match their destinations and route. As La’Zooz aims to build a real-time ridesharing service, a multi-hop solution is available — meaning that a driver can pick you up even if it is just for a portion of the trip. Another driver will pick you up a few minutes upon your arrival to your final destination.
“You could choose whether you prefer to have a quiet ride, or share a ride only with your favorite band fans.”
The second and more effective matching is the social one. Drivers and riders will be matched according to their social preferences, as can be learned by the algorithm from their social profile (on Facebook or other social networks) and other inputs like other app users’ ratings of them, or user’s profile details. You could choose whether you prefer to have a quiet ride or share a ride only with your favorite band fans. The social matching algorithm is still under development, but there is a lot of excitement in the team around it, as it has many implementation options on other services as well.
CT: Can La’Zooz coordinate, for example, the pickup of passengers at a train station or airport to their final destination?
LT: Yes. We call it “the last-mile solution” and in fact this is one of our first features to be launched, already running in alpha stage. A train station is a great place to match people to share a ride as there are many potential users at the same time going off the train and heading to the same destinations. You can either share a ride if one of you has left your car in the parking lot of the station, or share a taxi if, needed.
This is a great solution for suburbs’ stations where public transportation is usually not in its best, and stations feed a large area. For La’Zooz, this is also a great opportunity to unveil the service for new markets.
CT: How much funding have you secured so far, and what is your goal with the current crowdsale?
LT: We have opened (for the first time, as we know) two gateways for supporters of the project to get their Zooz tokens:
- A unique interface that we have developed for purchasing tokens with bitcoins. The Zooz price is determined as a function of time and demand. Each day, the price goes up in one step, but if at a certain day the amount of zooz tokens exceeds the number of tokens that were sold yesterday — another step is being made. This way there are at least 30 steps during the 30-day sale, but it can go up to 45, depending on the demand. We hope to raise enough money to bring the service for a first running pilot. It will require about US$500,000 but we are looking also for other funding sources for this amount — not just the sale.
- An Indiegogo page that allows people to purchase Zooz tokens with their PayPal account or credit cards. Indiegogo has approved the Zooz token as a legit product to be offered as a perk on its site, due in part to the unique legal terms we have used to define the Zooz token after a long legal procedure we went through with law firms in Israel and the US.
All bitcoins that are being raised during the sale go to a Coinbase multisig vault where 2 out of 3 signers are needed in order to release the funds. Funds will be released according to the milestones La’Zooz will publish in the coming days, and afterward an external auditor will approve that the milestone is completed. More details about the auditor and signers will be published soon.
CT: How was the Zooz token reference price determined?
LT: Zooz tokens will be used to reward drivers and other transportation service providers. For that purpose, a usable unit of account was searched for. After investigation of several options, the average global gas price was used to assess the average cost of 100 m of driving with an average private car. The result was a value of US$0.0095, which is approximately US$0.01, and therefore a US$0.01 was chosen as the zooz reference price for the token sale. Early buyers get a bigger discount during the current token sale.
“[W]hen critical mass is reached, the token should be used extensively and not be hoarded. This is created by the fact that the tokens have a real value in the world — to take you from place to place.”
CT: How do you approach the problem of Zooz token volatility when the number of users is still low?
LT: The Zooz token is a digital transportation token and we believe that when critical mass is reached, the token should be used extensively and not be hoarded. This is created by the fact that the tokens have a real value in the world — to take you from place to place.
Though there is a real value in the world for the token, and therefore its value is bounded, early contributors and investors enjoy a Zooz bonus when the project is developing. During the development period of the project, the price of the Zooz might increase as a result of the estimations of how much development will take place (and therefore more Zooz bonuses will be distributed to contributors, as explained below).
The transitional protocol used in the first period of the project was built to satisfy the needs of the project to raise funds for development and to reward early backers, users and developers.
CT: Why are you using an Omni Layer, and when do you plan to use ‘smart contracts’ down the road?
LT: The Omni development team has made a lot of effort to develop needed features for our stabilizing mechanism (which at this point is still not launched, as it has some security issues). We have been working both with the Counterparty team at earlier stages and wished to issue the Zooz token on both platforms and let the community decide where they prefer to get their tokens from.
“[O]nce Ethereum will go live, we plan to run the token’s stabilizing mechanism with smart contracts according to a suggestion made by Vitalik Buterin.”
But after we have made most of the implementation process on both platforms, creating our own Zooz vending machine (forked from Vennd.io) to work on the Omni layer, we have realized that we need to bring more simplicity into the project and decided to issue only on top of Omni.
At later stages, once Ethereum will go live, we plan to run the token’s stabilizing mechanism with smart contracts according to a suggestion made by Vitalik Buterin. This way funds are kept under a smart contract and are released once the contract is signed — whenever new tokens are burned to stabilize the price of the token.
CT: What are “weights” and how are members weighed?
LT: The La’Zooz community is active since October 2013, and as such has more than 50 members who have been contributing to the project at different levels and for different time spans. The community has voted several times in the past to evaluate the contribution of each member, and created a reputation system where each member holds a certain “weight,” not related to the amount of Zooz tokens he or she he holds.
“Decisions on issues raised by the community are made by a weighted voting mechanism in a way that people whom the community appreciates have more decision-making power.”
The weight of a member represents the trust and power the community decided to give him or her. Decisions on issues raised by the community are made by a weighted voting mechanism in a way that people whom the community appreciates have more decision-making power. For that reason, a unique smart algorithm was developed by the La’Zooz team that calculates the weight of each member. Votes on weights are made on a monthly basis among the community’s active members.
Weights are also used to determine the amount of Zooz tokens to be rewarded for contributions. Each member can vote each month for others’ contributions’ value. The votes are calculated according to the weights each member holds. This way, contributors that are more involved in the project have more say on the development process done by the community.
“[U]sers can mine Road Zooz tokens by simply installing the app and riding with it in the background.”
CT: Can you explain road mining?
LT: Road mining is the way La’Zooz users weave their local transportation web and are rewarded for that with “Road Zooz” tokens. As the first phase of the application is focused on creating a critical mass of users that enables the service to run smoothly, early adopters are an active and crucial part of the project and should be rewarded for sharing their valuable location data.
In this first phase, users can mine Road Zooz tokens by simply installing the app and riding with it in the background. As the distance and time a person is riding with the application [increases], his reward is larger. Users who share the app and expand their community of miners are rewarded for that as well.
The Road Mining algorithm details and examples can be found on our white paper. An iOS version for the mining app is one of our first milestones to be achieved with the funds being raised on the token sale.
In order to get intuition of how Road Zooz will be distributed among the community of early users, we show in figure 2 the results of a simulation of early users. In this simulation, every user makes trips worth a 100 Zooz each day, and with some probability, spread the app to a new friend. The critical mass was chosen here to be 10,000 users. Figure 2 shows that early road miners are rewarded significantly more than late road miners.
Figure 2: Road Zooz distributed to users. Each dot is a road miner where the x axis denotes the time each user joined the app.
CT: What happens to Road Zooz after critical mass is reached?
LT: Road Zooz will be used only within the app to pay for services. The payment transaction will exchange Road Zooz tokens into regular Zooz tokens, so the driver will be rewarded with Zooz tokens. This way, fake road miners have no impact on the system, as they won’t be able to exchange mined Road Zooz into Zooz tokens, and even if they will, its cloud will have a distinct pattern, easy to be traced.
“Using P2P payment solutions will surely become a common thing in the near future as we can see more and more mainstream adoption of the blockchain technology.”
CT: Since LaZooz is essentially a decentralized platform for ridesharing, this is a potentially disruptive technology to any transportation companies (taxis) or intermediaries (Lyft and Uber). Do you expect any backlash from market players, and can this network be shut down by authorities (the Transportation Ministry in Israel, for example)?
LT: Though the project uses blockchain technology and a decentralization structure for its operation, there is a full intention of the community to make La’Zooz services legit and usable in all mainstream markets. Using P2P payment solutions will surely become a common thing in the near future, as we can see more and more mainstream adoption of the blockchain technology, so we do not believe this will set a bar for implementation for the medium- and long-term use of the service.
As for regulation, as the service is a noncommercial one, neither special insurance, nor other special regulation is needed. We tend to see Uber, Lyft and the like to be a supplementary service within city centers, etc., where there is less private car usage. Most people don’t order a taxi every time they want to leave home to work — but you can share a ride with a neighbor.
In fact, with congestion costs exceeding the US$100B bar annually in the US alone, we see La’Zooz services as a true solution for increasing vehicle occupancy, which is one of the major goals of all developed countries around the world while trying to optimize national expenses.
You can think of La’Zooz as replacing your car with your smartphone — moving around freely, with minimal costs and ecological footprints, while maximizing your social experience.