Ridesharing is hip again

14 09 2007

Much of my free time is spent attending concerts or taking road trips. In fact, most of my road trips are usually destined for a concert. In order to align my interests with my career, I’m creating a rideshare service that connects concertgoers to share rides to and from shows and rewards drivers with discounts on tickets and other retail rewards. By partnering with preexisting networks, the site garners critical mass and delivers rideshares rapidly to local markets. In this way, we overcome the problem facing most other rideshare sites – lack of users. Not only does ridesharing provide a way to reduce transportation costs and CO2 emmissions, it also facilitates face-to-face interactions (god forbid) of like-minded people. The inspiration for this service came in 2001 at a bar (like most other great ideas) in Copenhagen. While ordering a drink I overheard an enthusiastic (and somewhat tipsy) Danish couple talking about seeing Basement Jaxx at the Roskilde Festival. I bought the two strangers a round of Carlsbergs and waxed poetic about all things electronica. An hour later I was invited to hitch a ride with my new best friends to – what still remains as – one of the best weeks EVAR!

I’ve been delighted to witness an increasing number of rideshare startups over the past few years. Despite subtle variations, the few sites that have been successful have rather similar business models.

  • They require users to sign-up and create a profile to learn about the person one is riding with. The profiles mirror those of most other social networking sites, including pictures, interests, preferences, in addition to type of vehicle and the type of driver you are.
  • They allow users to join groups/networks which include their trusted friends
  • Riders and drivers are connected via mapping technology (usually Google Maps). Some sites just do point-to-point travel whereas others connect users who simply share a similar route
  • Incentives for drivers include retail rewards or payment from the rider through services such as PayPal
  • Some sites address safety by means of a rating system and with user comments

The recent interest in ridesharing is a result of various technological factors and cultural conditions, which I’ll elaborate upon in a later post. For now, I will present some of the more notable rideshare sites. For the readers of this site (my 6 friends) I encourage you to sign up and offer and or take a ride on these sites and share your thoughts about the experience.

Facebook ‘Carpool’ Application – Founded by Logan Green (UCSB)
The Carpool application on Facebook began as Zimride, an independent carpooling website created by Logan Green at UCSB. Zimride was the first application to provide carpools for Facebook users. Users logged in with their Facebook profile; however, after the Facebook Applications Feature debuted, Zimride (wisely) integrated exclusively with the 800 lb social network. I particularly like one of the features of its map-routing technology. When searching for a ride from northern NJ to NYC, the system connects you to drivers who share similar routes rather than those solely sharing the same origin and destination. So, rather than limiting my search to drivers starting from the same zip code, I’m connected to people coming from Montreal to New York because I am only a 2 mile detour off their route. The listings in the picture below are sorted by the detour distance for the driver. This features connects a larger number of users, increasing the likelihood of matches.

facebook-detour.jpg
GoLoco – Founded by Robin Chase (of Zipcar)
GoLoco, like Zimride, started as a standalone social network for carpoolers, but eventually became a Facebook Application – see a trend? GoLoco is unique in that it establishes a standard rate for rides ($.50/mile) and facilitates payments between drivers and riders via PayPal. The pre-ride transaction eliminates the awkwardness of monetary discussions during the ride. GoLoco generates revenue by taking a 10% cut of the transaction. However, GoLoco does not receive anything if the driver doesn’t charge for the ride. If the site achieves critical mass, this can be a considerable amount of revenue. The web site also aims to provide more context on its users than comparable services. In addition to pictures and interests, you can also hear voice clips of the user. Roin Chase is making some nice progress with GoLoco and seems to understand the value of partnerships – with organizers, employers, and conferences. If she also partners with the indie rock world, I may be looking for a new job.

GoLoco

Rideamigos
Rideamigos just launched in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago and is focusing on a variety of ridesharing services. Though you can post your own rides, the site nudges you towards coordinating cab rides. Rideamigos seems to have partnered with many local establishments because all registered users can print out a rewards card and receive discounts from a number of retailers – ranging from boutique clothing to DJ gear (suh-weet!). The hyper-local approach seems to be a smart move, particularly when trying to build strong community. Furthermore, Cab-sharing is inherently safer since you are driving with an already trusted driver. If you are the founder of Rideamigos and come across this blog, shoot me an e-mail. Let’s chat.

Rideamigos Home Page

Hitchsters is similar but focuses solely on rides to and from the airport. And Splitacab facilitates…well…just that.

I’ve left out a lot of sites, but these few appear to be moving in the right direction.

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One response

29 07 2008
roger

hello i stumbled upon your blog i have started a rideshare carpooling web site that will allow users to rate there travel partners and give feedback for other potential rideshare partners there is also an affiliate section to pool users of same interests or workers of the same companies traveling to the same destination site is very user friendly and allows users alot of freedom to come up with there own uses please check it out and leave feedback on site thanks site name is http://www.hitcharidenow.com

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