Kenyan-owned taxi-hailing app Little is set to rival Uber in rolling out a mass transport service in the new year that will see its users book seats on minibuses plying various city routes.

Little Shuttle will allow riders to book a seat and board the 33-seater minibuses at specific times of the day. The new service targets riders who would otherwise use their vehicles to move around.

Uber in November announced its intention to launch a similar service within Nairobi once tests on the product in Egypt and Mexico prove successful.

Little is running its pilot on Kangemi and Nextgen route in an undertaking that the firm says it is implementing with the help of National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to ensure they comply with the law.

“We expect to fine-tune the platform as we pilot and customise it further to solve real city problems. For our pilot and also as we go live, we would be working with partners who have clean bigger buses with a seating capacity of 33 and above,” said Kamal Budhabhatti, the founder of Craft Silicon that owns Little.

“The cost (of Little Shuttle) once we go live would be higher than a Matatu cost and we are not competing with them, rather letting Riders who would otherwise be using their own vehicles for city and work movements,” said Budhabhatti.

Little and Uber are targeting a big chunk of the capital’s commuters who use often unpredictable public service vehicles as a form of transport around the city. The Uber Bus function, Uber’s East Africa General Manager Loic Amado told Reuters, would also be available on the app.

Once the service is proven in Nairobi, Amado said it could be expanded to Kenya’s neighbours, such as Uganda’s capital Kampala and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

The idea would be to apply it to vehicles carrying up to 16 people.

“We want to be part of the transportation ecosystem in Nairobi and matatus are a big part of how people move around,” Amado said.