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Vehicle rentals in Saudi Arabia go contactless with first-of-its-kind car sharing app

The rented cars will be activated through an app, which alone can unlock the vehicle, while the keys will be safely locked inside.

[Source photo: Venkat Reddy/Fast Company Middle East]

In the social distancing era, renting a car has become the preferred alternative to booking a cab with a stranger. People in the Middle East also have platforms to lease cars for a few days or a couple of years. But as services get increasingly touch-free, would users also wish to meet another person for the handover?

To save both car owners and renters time, the UAE-based self-mobility app Ekar has introduced contactless peer-to-peer car-sharing in Saudi Arabia. The first-of-its-kind service in the Middle East integrates the car’s onboard computer with the app while the keys are locked inside. Vehicles are only unlocked after authentication from the platform; otherwise, they won’t move at all.

AI keeps track of location, driver behavior, time, and vehicle identification during the journey. Ekar’s entire fleet in Saudi Arabia has been inspected and installed with health trackers. Users can rent a car for a day or longer durations, and vehicles are insured for damages during the journey.

Hosts in Saudi Arabia can commit their cars to the rental service for a minimum of eight hours a day, for eight days per month. Car owners, who’ve been long-term hosts for Ekar, register vehicles for a minimum of one month as part of a free-floating car sharing scheme. These cars can generate returns of more than $2500 a month.

Ekar expects to capitalize on the growing popularity of peer-to-peer car-sharing amid reduced production of cars and increasing fuel prices. It has eyes on five million fully- insured, fully-owned vehicles covered by the peer-to-peer norms in the kingdom. The large number of cars that can be rented will also provide more choices of models to the users.

Vehicle owners can keep an eye on the vehicle’s performance and earnings through Ekar’s operating system. The renter may pay a fine if they drive the car beyond the allotted booking time.

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