Last week UberX, Lyft and Sidecar all announced new ride sharing features which will give their passengers the option to share cars and costs when hiring these peer to peer taxi services. These ride services are in a unique position to know exactly where everyone is going and so to create efficient carpooling, in real time. I’m calling this commercial ridesharing, because it’s limited to users within one commercial product, and it’s arranged by the car service, not the users.
Commercial ridesharing gives passengers the option to share empty seats in their hired car, and will automatically split the costs so that everyone pays less. Riders select the shared ride option in the app, enter their destination, and are automatically matched with other riders going a similar route. Discounts are being advertised at around 40% (UberX), 50% (Sidecar), and 60% (Lyft), though all say savings will vary and there are no details on how exactly the prices will be calculated for each rider. UberX and Lyft both promise a discount to all riders who opt in to their ridesharing service for a trip, even if no other riders are found to join the trip.
While some drivers might worry that this will reduce their opportunities to make money, Sidecar makes a bold argument that this is very much to the advantage of drivers: “Shared Rides is big news for drivers too because it reduces prices and increases demand in a way that benefits BOTH riders and drivers. Everybody wins! Sidecar drivers can now make more money with higher fares, longer rides and shorter waits between rides. In fact, our drivers are earning on average 40% more since we began testing Shared Rides in San Francisco in May.”
UberPool is in private beta right now in conjunction with Google, and is scheduled for public beta on August 15. Lyft Line launched Wednesday is now available to the public on iphone only. And Sidecar’s Shared Ride feature has been in beta in San Francisco since May 15 and will be rolled out to all markets by the end of the year.
I’m a big supporter of ride sharing, and wish that there was something as popular as BlaBlaCar (a European rideshare service) in the United States. While peer to peer taxi rideshare services are not the economical carpooling option I’m hoping for, they could be a big step forward in economic and environmentally friendly transportation. In a world of expensive and inefficient transportation, any new sharing services are a welcome addition.
For more information read my overview of sharing economy transportation options.