Uber has become ubiquitous in many countries. It’s a convenient alternative to taxis. Ride-hailing services like Uber offer online platforms to connect riders with drivers using their personal vehicles. And there are plenty of Uber competitors: Lyft in the U.S., Slimride in India, Cabify in Latin America, Grab in Southeast Asia. I find these services very useful when traveling, and also at home. But these are not ridesharing services. And it’s time to separate out the words we use for ridesharing and ride-hailing.
Ridesharing is basically hitchhiking or carpooling enhanced with technology. You might pay for the ride, but only to the extent that you’re sharing the cost of the trip. People don’t drive for ridesharing services for a profit. They do it to cut down the costs on a road trip, or for the company on a long drive. Ridesharing services don’t have a fleet of drivers. You generally can’t book a ride on demand, unless you get lucky with the timing. And it’s not door-to-door service.
I used to keep track of ride-hailing services in my peer-to-peer business spreadsheet. But I’ve decided to stop because my list is woefully out of date. And because these aren’t really peer to peer services. Ride-hailing is a just an unregulated version of taxis, hailed by your phone instead of your hand. Recent legislation in California and other states to reclassify these drivers as employees rather than contractors underscores this point.
Ridesharing, on the other hand, is very much a peer-to-peer service. Blablacar is an excellent example of ridesharing. The biggest of the ridesharing businesses, Blablacar is active in 22 countries including much of Europe, Russia, Mexico and India. I’ve had great success using Blablacar to get around Spain and other parts of Europe.
Unlike ride-hailing, ridesharing requires some advance planning. At least a few days before your trip you need to find drivers on your desired route. Then you submit a requested booking for a seat in their car and hope that the driver accepts. You coordinate for pick up and drop of points. And then you hope the driver shows up. There’s no recourse if the driver bails on your trip. But there are reviews in the app so you can try to select a reliable driver. I’ve never had problems but I know this happens.
Use whichever service works for you. But let’s agree to stop confusing ride-hailing with ridesharing. For a list of ridesharing companies around the world, check out my spreadsheet.