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These self-driving pods might be the future of public transportation

Uber arch-rival Careem, which operates in Pakistan and across the Middle East and North Africa, has inked a deal to use self-driving electric pods, reports Gulf Business.

The pods, made by Italy-based Next Future Transportation, are modular, allowing them to drive individually or by clamping to other units to form a bus. One pod, 8.8 feet (2.7 m) in length, can hold up to 10 people.

The deal, described as a strategic partnership between the two firms, is a long way from bringing the actual autonomous pods into service since the Italian company has not yet started testing on a working prototype.

The firm last month rolled out its first full-scale prototype – pictured here:

“We are ready to power it and start the testings [sic], however we are still looking for a lead investor,” said Next in a post on LinkedIn.

The Italian company first debuted its idea towards the end of last year. The pods are the brainchild of Tommaso Gecchelin, an engineer and industrial designer who envisions a network of the electric vehicles owned by businesses which people can summon via an app. Tommaso has said that the buzzy little cubes will be up and running by 2020.

“Next offers a unique and compelling vision for mass transit. We look forward to working closely with Next to pioneer their solutions in the region,” said Careem co-founder and managing director Mudassir Sheikha to Gulf Business.

Careem, based in the United Arab Emirates, last year raised $60 million in series C financing to help it grow. The startup recently vowed to spend $100 million on R&D in the next five years.

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