Ass, gas or grass: rideshare goes mobile.

08.03.2010 by Arthur Grau IV | 0 Comments
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Ride Share App ExampleThere’s a saying I heard a while back while hitch-hiking in Michigan.  A gentleman who looked to be about my father’s age pulled his Ford LTD over to the gravel shoulder and when I approached the door, rolled the window down a little an asked, “Ass, gas or grass?”, though I’d never heard this question before, it only took me a moment to get what he was asking.  The simplicity of this question may be may be why it still appears on bumper stickers and tee shirts and inspires crunchy rock songs and 3AM musings in front of web cams.  Often accompanied by, “nobody rides for free” ass, gas or grass leaves little room for misunderstanding.

Years later, with the internet in our pockets and geo-location accurate often within a few hundred feet, this tried and true method of asking for payment for a ride share has taken a new vernacular.  Perhaps to our benefit, the request is now cleaned up, good for the environment, the right thing to do and maybe even pre-paid.  Though I am sure you could think of a dozen creative ways to offer or ask for a ride, one company already has it in gear for the iPhone user. 

Yellow Cab, beware.

AvegoShared Transport enables private cars to become part of the public transport network by providing a marketplace for drivers to offer their empty seats to riders in real time. Avego’s iPhone app dynamically matches drivers with riders, provides real-time passenger information and automatically manages the payment transaction at the end of the journey.  Avego features a social network style profile, including the profile of your vehicle, with available seats and the kind of riders you are willing to pick up, maps and reminders.  They offer a simulated rider finder, so you can test what it would be like stop along your route and pick up a person.  Avego offers pin code authorization for riders and drivers to provide safety and guarantee that you get what the profile offered.  This allows the rider to pre-pay for a seat in your car and be verified as the person you requested to pick up.

The first real thumb-to-the-wind test was at the University of Cork in Ireland in 2009.  With parking and traffic causing problems for the 150 year old university, they contracted with Avego to test the real time ride share service.  Judging by a June 30, 2010 UCC job board that had four iPhone related positions offered at the company, the concept seems to be working.   Just like the old hitch hiking question exemplifies, it makes sense to save money or get something for a valuable asset (like the empty seat in your car), whenever possible.   Sharing a trip is one of the biggest ways to save, especially when the transaction is not bartered through a half opened car window, but brokered via your online profile and social recommendations.  You can then measure the real savings or plan for recurring trips.  Not exactly as liberating as the old style hitch hike, but clearly effective.

What other rideshare apps are out there?

Cited as the first ever of its kind, this is definitely not the only ride share application available, or almost available.  A preliminary search revealed several systems around the world that are poised to change the way we use the “private automobile”.  In Germany, Open Ride invites us to check back soon for their pilot project.  In New York there is an SMS based taxi share that seems to be still in the idea phase.  Flinc also looks like they’re ready to launch, they just need a test bed.  In oil rich Malaysia, the congestion is still high in the cities and they appear to be going green with SMS carpool.

Clearly, “gas” is the prime motivator in today’s ride share movement.  When I took my ride in the maroon LTD, giving the driver a few bucks was more than enough for the short distance I had to go, given gas was only $1.20 a gallon.  Even with money as the primary motivator, I  am willing to bet that the ride share that engages the fun and perceived security of an online social network will be the service gains the most drivers and riders.  Though “grass” and “ass” may still not be entirely out of the equation.  I imagine single drivers could dream that they meet their next sweet heart just around the corner at the next pick up.  What’s better than a car ride to foster intimate conversation….  And similar to the purported effects of “grass”, offering a space in your car, doing something good for the environment and maybe even being paid to do it, could be seen to elevate your mood or “get you high” in a much more wholesome way than implied in the motto of the driver picking up a rider.

What remains to be created is the pure public purpose application that allows the people who need it the most to simply and safely share their assets and their needs and get matched for a ride.

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Sometimes, little johnny, try as we might not to, we just need some extra divs. There there, dear, I know. I know.