New Company Gives Israel's Sherut Taxi a High-tech Makeover, Eyeing U.S. Congested Roads

Founded by two IAF veterans, Via Transportation offers set-route services in New York and Chicago, with passengers requesting rides through a mobile app.

An Israeli sherut, or shared taxi.
Nir Keidar

A company founded by two Israeli Air Force veterans is betting that a high-tech version of the old Israeli sherut taxi service is the answer to America's transportation problems, according to the EyeforEye website.

And they're not the only ones who think so. Via Transportation, which currently operates in New York and Chicago, has just raised $100 million in funding from Roman Abromovich's Ervington Investments and the Hearst Corporation.

Founded by Daniel Ramot and Oren Shoval, who have PhDs in neuroscience and systems biology from Stanford and the Weizmann Institute of Science respectively, Via Transportation is both building its own fleets of large SUVs and mini-buses and offering its technology to municipalities to help them improve their transport systems.

The company matches multiple passengers with available seats in the vehicles. Passengers request rides through a mobile app and Via’s systems instantly select, and if necessary reroute, the vehicle that best matches the route requested.

The price is little more than that for a bus and heavily undercuts regular taxis and most Uber services.

“Via’s dynamic bus system offers cities a smart solution to traffic congestion and emissions,” Ramot said in the company’s press release. The attraction as he sees it is that the system eliminates single-occupancy vehicle trips.

Started in 2012, Via says it has provided over four million rides. It launched with a rush-hour only service and only within a narrow stretch of New York’s Upper East Side and Midtown Manhattan. But growth has come from the competitive advantage of its flat-rate price.