Sidecar raised $15 million this week, with funding from several sources including Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson. The money is targeted at expanding their ride sharing program. I wrote recently about the launch of ride sharing programs by Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. They are all offering riders the option of either taking a peer to peer taxi alone, or sharing that ride with others traveling a similar route. The ride sharing option will save riders money, and the companies hope it will also increase the efficiency and revenue of drivers (and the company itself). Sidecar plans to use this new funding to serve 500,000 shared rides by the end of the year.
This announcement follows related news from last week: the California Public Utilities Commission issued a warning to Sidecar, as well as Uber and Lyft, that their carpool features are illegal under California law. The CPUC wants them to apply for adjustments to their permits. But as we’ve seen with other new sharing economy services like AirBnb, pesky regulations and laws probably won’t stop them from expanding services.
In related news outside of the United States, the Uber app was blocked by a German court this month for violating the Passenger Transportation Act. None of this seems to deter funders who are falling over each other to get behind various peer to peer transportation startups. Uber secured $1.2 billion in June, Flightcar closed $13.5 million this month, and BlaBlaCar raised $100 million in July. With the money and innovation going in to these peer to peer transportation companies, I’m optimistic that when the regulatory battles are over, and the applications and services have been vetted, we could see significant improvements in transportation that will be better for the environment and cheaper for travelers.