Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Markets in Everything: Digital Hitchhiking App

There's an interesting new ridesharing app available through Apple called SideCar, which connects drivers and passengers, kind of like a modern form of hitchhiking in the digital age:

"SideCar is a community-based, real-time ridesharing marketplace. Our proprietary technology, deployed via a user-friendly mobile app, instantly connects people with extra space in their cars to those who need to get from one place to another. Spontaneous carpools. SideCar is an easy, safe, reliable, and completely donation-based way to get from here to there. Not to mention fun!

SideCar is neither a taxi nor limo. It’s a ride-matching app that connects people who need rides with community drivers who can give them rides on the fly. All payments are completely voluntary and are handled via a cashless, donation-based system between smartphones."

Note: It's only available right now in San Francisco, with plans for expansion to other parts of the country.

HT: Fred Dent

36 Comments:

At 6/26/2012 5:51 PM, Blogger Marko said...

Sounds similar to "slugging" in the DC area because of HOV restrictions.

Also, sounds like a great app for a serial killer.

 
At 6/26/2012 6:04 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Also, sounds like a great app for a serial killer.

Haha I was just thinking that.

 
At 6/27/2012 12:50 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

>>>> Note: It's only available right now in San Francisco, with plans for expansion to other parts of the country.

Rather lame. No reason to limit it that sharply.

>>> Also, sounds like a great app for a serial killer.

No joke, it would provide one with a lot of ways to meet someone.

"But there'd be a record of the meeting" -- yes, but only if you entered valid info, and probably in more than one instance you'd get the home address and use THAT info to create the situation you want.

It certainly could be abused exactly that way.

 
At 6/27/2012 8:50 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

In order for anything like this to "work", one has to recognize one of the legitimate functions of that big, bad, nasty govt and that is a way for people to "register" as a provider who does not have a criminal background, does have a legal "govt" license that mean old govt-mandated insurance.

In other words, in order for this to really work - you'd have to rely on the basic security safeguards that the govt owns and operates.

You might be able to privatize some of it but think about it... how would you verify a persons criminal background, fitness to drive and financial responsibility with a "private" system?

 
At 6/27/2012 11:10 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"You might be able to privatize some of it but think about it... how would you verify a persons criminal background, fitness to drive and financial responsibility with a "private" system?"

You are over-thinking this.

 
At 6/27/2012 12:40 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Over-thinking is the cornerstone of appreciating government "services".
The all holy background checks....the same ones that put infants on no-fly lists and make guys who had consensual sex with their girlfriend when they were teens register as a sex offender for life. Not to mention the millions of "criminals" who got caught with a joint.

 
At 6/27/2012 4:42 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

Perhaps. The slugging in the DC area is done at "govt" parking lots with most of the riders and drivers sporting govt (or contractor) ID badges and most are headed to govt buildings/facilities.

It's not a great place for a serial bad guy to practice his craft.

but if you spread out the venues to be any point x to point y with any generic driver and any generic passenger... think about it... how would you implement it such that people would feel some level of security - enough so they'd actually use it.

Without some basic safequards the whole thing will become a game where only those armed to the teeth will play.

this is really an excellent example of what role govt should (or should not) play.

If someone can get this to "work" without govt - I'm all for it.

 
At 6/27/2012 7:54 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Larry-

What about taxis? They operate in a manner similar to this, no? You call a cab (or hail one), they pick you up and drive you. No background checks are done. The driver could be picking up a serial killer.

 
At 6/27/2012 8:05 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Slugging protocol requires that one never accept a ride or a rider alone.

 
At 6/27/2012 9:00 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

re: the driver and the passenger

well the driver "in theory" has a license - a chauffeur's license and likely is not getting a job for a one night serial crime....

you don't have that level of assurance with a smartphone app guy

on the other side - I agree... there are no assurances for cabbies but cabbies themselves are pretty savvy about "customers" and where they pick up / drop off.

so perhaps I'm incorrect, eh?

 
At 6/27/2012 9:04 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Perhaps. The slugging in the DC area is done at "govt" parking lots with most of the riders and drivers sporting govt (or contractor) ID badges and most are headed to govt buildings/facilities.

It's not a great place for a serial bad guy to practice his craft.
"

Perhaps you'll explain why you believe a government parking lot is safer than a private parking lot, or why government employees are less likely to be serial killers than anyone else.

It's really bizarre that you can't imagine individuals reaching a mutually beneficial agreement for transportation. It happens all the time, and this Side Car app should help connect people with complimentary needs.

As Jon points out, cab drivers don't know who they are picking up, and when you ride a bus you have no idea what homicidal maniac is in the seat behind you.

The beauty of a private voluntary arrangement, is that anyone who has concerns as you seem to, can chose not to involve themselves. Problem solved.

You seem to be missing the whole point that a peer to peer system like Side Car avoids the usual government BS that makes other systems expensive.

By the way, there is nothing to "privatize", here, as everything about it is already private.

 
At 6/27/2012 9:06 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"so perhaps I'm incorrect, eh?"

Yes, it would appear so.

 
At 6/27/2012 9:13 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

" Perhaps you'll explain why you believe a government parking lot is safer than a private parking lot, or why government employees are less likely to be serial killers than anyone else."

It is because State Police patrol it and govt employees make terrible serial killers... As far as I know in the history of slugging in DC..not a single govt serial killer has emerged.

"It's really bizarre that you can't imagine individuals reaching a mutually beneficial agreement for transportation. It happens all the time, and this Side Car app should help connect people with complimentary needs."

there are all kinds of people. Some are not nice and some are criminally inclined.

"As Jon points out, cab drivers don't know who they are picking up, and when you ride a bus you have no idea what homicidal maniac is in the seat behind you."

true. but as I pointed out, Cabbies are occupationally "careful". They know from experience when to demur. Folks no doubt ride buses, subways and planes with serial killers every day - and all of them take great pains not to put themselves in a one-on-one encounter with them.

"The beauty of a private voluntary arrangement, is that anyone who has concerns as you seem to, can chose not to involve themselves. Problem solved."

Oh I'm not arguing against the idea. I LIKE the idea BUT I do not think it will "work" without an answer to the security issues. It "works" in DC because the lots are patrolled and questionable cars and people taken notice of.

The govt/contractor community in DC tends to be heavy with military and other security types anyhow.

In fact in many venues..there are uniformed folks everywhere.


"You seem to be missing the whole point that a peer to peer system like Side Car avoids the usual government BS that makes other systems expensive.

By the way, there is nothing to "privatize", here, as everything about it is already private."

as I said. I LIKE the idea a LOT but I think it is doomed to fail if most folks are concerned who the person is they are "connecting" with. Not all folks are nice and docile.

 
At 6/27/2012 10:08 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"The govt/contractor community in DC tends to be heavy with military and other security types anyhow.

In fact in many venues..there are uniformed folks everywhere.
"

Then your argument is a good one for shall-issue concealed carry.

"Folks no doubt ride buses, subways and planes with serial killers every day - and all of them take great pains not to put themselves in a one-on-one encounter with them. "

LOL

Just how many serial killers do you think there are, anyway?

Larry, not everyone is paranoid like you, and not everyone needs big brother to protect them from the big bad world, but for you, the obvious choice is to stay home so you don't risk encountering Ted Bundy.

 
At 6/28/2012 6:17 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

I'm not paranoid guy. I'm pointing out a real concern by many. Even here one of the first comments was "sounds like a great app for a serial killer".

My view remains that this is a good idea but it will fail unless and until the security aspects are dealt with.

 
At 6/28/2012 7:39 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

I have to partially agree with Larry. Unless there is some articulation regarding safety for both parties, this will be a tough sell. You know the first question asked will be "how do I protect myself?"

 
At 6/28/2012 7:54 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

I see this app as almost a "hitchhiking" app.

so... you're some place where you need a ride and you "announce" it via your smartphone including obviously your location.

Then everyone who is ostensibly "competing" to get your business - "sees" where you are and then responds.

At that point, you have no idea who is on the other end or even if they really are who they say they are.

If you are a women, it's probably even scarier.

you have to solve this problem or this will be just another app that spins spins off to the side.

The question I asserted/posed originally was - is there a role for govt in this?

For instance, could such an app - require those who want to provide rides to register and provide their verified license data?

If they did that - how likely would it be that a bad guy would actually submit their license data to be verified?

It's these KINDS of things that would need to be addressed in order for average folks to have some kind of trust in the safety of the service.

Now..if you are a free-market guy - you can see the opportunity here but you can also see a "no-go" if the problems are not sufficiently addressed.

That's how opportunity gets converted into a real income-producing business, right?

Someone is going to come up with the answer and I predict will be rewarded for it.

 
At 6/28/2012 1:43 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jon M:

"have to partially agree with Larry. Unless there is some articulation regarding safety for both parties, this will be a tough sell. You know the first question asked will be "how do I protect myself?""

I do too. :)

I understand and agree with the safety concerns, but object to Larry's assertion that government involvement is somehow required to make it possible.

People now make arrangements for transportation both public and private, and somehow manage, for the most part, to arrive safely at their destinations. Only a tiny fraction are raped, murdered, or dismembered, so they must be doing something right.

I expect that people will apply whatever that common sense "something" is, to this new innovation as well.

Obviously, those as fearful as Larry seems to be should avoid such a system. Although he hasn't directly said so yet, I expect him to claim that this idea is just too dangerous, and no one should be allowed to use it, for their own safety of course.

This Sidecar app appears to be a handy way for people who are so inclined, to improve their well being. And while it may not become widely popular, there is no low end of the scale at which it doesn't work. If only 6 people in SF benefit, and none meet an untimely end, then it can be considered worthwhile.

I assume Larry's argument about government employees being generally safer than the general public, is due to the fact that some are armed. That's a great argument in favor of concealed carry for everyone.

 
At 6/28/2012 2:04 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

well what I said was I don't know how you'd credential someone without using existing govt documents like driver's licenses.

How would YOU vett/validate someone if you could not use govt docs?

What do they ask for in most places to ascertain your identity? Is there a private, non-govt way of doing it?


I don't discount that other paths are conceivable just as Ebay has after some fits and starts come up with an effective way to vett "good" sellers.

I don't think the idea is "too" dangerous. I say that whether or not the app succeeds will depend in large part on the verdict of the potential users and that IMHO without something more concrete - it will fail.

Again - I'm all for the innovation and the ability of real marketplace in ride sharing...

but I'm a pragmatist also and in order for it to succeed ..it will need "more".

re: "armed" govt employees.

hmmm... you must never have tried to enter a public building in NoVa... even those with "carry" have major challenges...

but no... you have to understand most govt workers (and others) who tend to NOT frequent lonely type places that would put them in a circumstance of one-on-one with a stranger.

The same places that are chock-full of people by day are empty at night ...and many not safe at night.

At I said at the top - not everyone in this world is a nice person out to aid you.

 
At 6/28/2012 2:08 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

yeah..but these are people in the "business".

I'm talking about an individual who goes overseas, gets a transplant, and returns home.

And how closely do they monitor these registry's anyhow?

If they call and you say... he died... do they demand a death cert or just go away?

do they demand that you provide info to get off the registry or they send the cops after you?

what cops? who would enforce ?

 
At 6/28/2012 2:24 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"The question I asserted/posed originally was - is there a role for govt in this?"

There's no need for government involvement, in fact this is an effort to keep government out, to avoid the red tape, licensing, permits, and other costs involved in what is basically an informal taxi service.

The use of government collected data, such as that found in a background check, doesn't mean government is needed. actually, if you followed the link in the original post, you would see that most of your concerns have been addressed.

"so... you're some place where you need a ride and you "announce" it via your smartphone including obviously your location.

Then everyone who is ostensibly "competing" to get your business - "sees" where you are and then responds.

At that point, you have no idea who is on the other end or even if they really are who they say they are.
"

This is not much different from calling a cab. You don't know what evil fiend might be listening in, and show up with a cab at your location, only to whisk you away to their basement torture chamber.

Flagging down a cab is even riskier.

You cannot eliminate all risk, no matter how hard you try.

The fact that unpleasant experiences are so rare, should tell you something.

"f they did that - how likely would it be that a bad guy would actually submit their license data to be verified?"

A bad guy or gal will get done what they need to get done. You are underestimating human ingenuity.

How likely would it be that a bad guy - or gal - would try to dismember me if they knew I was armed?

"It's these KINDS of things that would need to be addressed in order for average folks to have some kind of trust in the safety of the service."

As I wrote, some of them have been, and fortunately, it isn't up to you or me to address such issues for others.

"Someone is going to come up with the answer and I predict will be rewarded for it."

The answer for you seems to be a licensed taxi service, but the intent here, is to bypass such a system to avoid the costs.

 
At 6/28/2012 2:34 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"re: "armed" govt employees.

hmmm... you must never have tried to enter a public building in NoVa... even those with "carry" have major challenges...
"

The issue is ride sharing, Larry, not entering a building. Try to stay on topic.

You suggested that government employees who ride-share are safer than others. I asked you to explain why that should be. The only difference I could think of is that more government employees are likely armed. If that's not it, then what is it?

 
At 6/28/2012 2:36 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

"The use of government collected data, such as that found in a background check, doesn't mean government is needed. actually, if you followed the link in the original post, you would see that most of your concerns have been addressed.

indeed, you ARE CORRECT, my bad (although they appear to contradict you also) :

"Every community driver is licensed, insured and background-checked. GPS-tracking, social ratings and 24-hour support make for an even safer transportation community "

this is going to cost some money so someone is going to have to pay... drivers for their own "credentialing" and passengers for a "safer" experience?

of course the fly is always in the ointment - and that means someone is going to have to ride herd over the "registered" drivers to keep track of new "hires", removing those departed and evaluating existing drivers.

Perhaps an EBay-type rating system will evolve with "gold star" providers.

so I have a question - what is a chauffeur license with respect to this kind of service?

 
At 6/28/2012 2:45 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

The issue is ride sharing, Larry, not entering a building. Try to stay on topic.

oh I am and I'm not the one who brought up "carry", right? I was explaining why security is different than most places.

"You suggested that government employees who ride-share are safer than others. I asked you to explain why that should be. The only difference I could think of is that more government employees are likely armed. If that's not it, then what is it?"

nope. there are all kinds of ride sharing people and in the DC area quite a few are wearing uniforms - armed services, security personnel, etc.

getting into a govt installation while carrying a weapon, even as an employee is problematical.

but in general.. at the parking lots - there is a time-window when everyone is there and then they are gone and they really are not in business at odd nighttime hours (when you might call a cab or ride a bus or subway).

It's the same at the office buildings.

During the day there are lots of people, and lots of armed security folks both inside the entry areas and on the street.

Washington is not like most cities when it comes to the overall security environment - and ride sharing.

Most folks who ride share in the region live near the lot where they ride-share and they get to know familiar faces and even the drivers (who have signs on their dashes of their destinations).

it's a different environment than other places in part because govt jobs, unlike the private sector, still tend to be career jobs and people can work their entire career at one agency and know everyone who works there including the ones that live and commute near where they live.

 
At 6/28/2012 2:58 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

""Every community driver is licensed, insured and background-checked. GPS-tracking, social ratings and 24-hour support make for an even safer transportation community "

That means standard drivers license and proof of standard insurance.

If you noticed the sample screens, you may have noticed that the fee is $8. That covers the costs you are concerned about. Anyone can do background checks for a low annual fee.

You may have also noticed the star rating system for drivers.

 
At 6/28/2012 3:16 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Washington is not like most cities when it comes to the overall security environment - and ride sharing."

And of course that no bearing on this subject, as the sidecar app is only available in San Fransisco.

"well the driver "in theory" has a license - a chauffeur's license and likely is not getting a job for a one night serial crime...."

Have you ever asked a cab driver to show their chauffeur's license?

""The question I asserted/posed originally was - is there a role for govt in this?""

No, you didn't ask, you claimed it was necessary.

Remember this?

"In order for anything like this to "work", one has to recognize one of the legitimate functions of that big, bad, nasty govt and that is a way for people to "register" as a provider who does not have a criminal background, does have a legal "govt" license that mean old govt-mandated insurance."

 
At 6/28/2012 3:19 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

" No, you didn't ask, you claimed it was necessary.

Remember this?

"In order for anything like this to "work", one has to recognize one of the legitimate functions of that big, bad, nasty govt and that is a way for people to "register" as a provider who does not have a criminal background, does have a legal "govt" license that mean old govt-mandated insurance."

and I made it clear that if other methods were available I was fine with them.

Don't you find it a bit undermining that you claim they are not needed but provide no alternatives and the app itself requires govt docs?

which is really what I was saying probably needed to happen for it to work from the get go?

so.. this app will not work without the govt, right?

agree?

 
At 6/28/2012 5:14 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Don't you find it a bit undermining that you claim they are not needed but provide no alternatives and the app itself requires govt docs?"

You continue to miss the point. Almost everyone who drives a car has a drivers license and some form of insurance, including most serial killers. If it is comforting to you for some reason that your driver has those things, then you are easy to please, but you are not assured of a safer ride because of them.

Background checks may also be of little use when you you consider that many serial killers, including Ted Bundy had no prior criminal records.

What protects you from harm in dealing with strangers is your instincts, common sense, perhaps a Glock, and mostly the fact that deranged killers are extremely rare. Many other things in daily life pose a higher threat to your well being than rides with strangers.

The alternatives I have offered are common sense, awareness of your souroundings, prudent caution, and the ability to defend yourself physically. Those are things you control yourself at all times, therefore they are more valuable than pieces of paper from government bureaucrats.

Well, for most people they are. Perhaps you aren't one of them.

 
At 6/28/2012 5:19 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"which is really what I was saying probably needed to happen for it to work from the get go?"

You asked for those things without knowing what you were talking about, not having read the references, as is usual with you.

 
At 6/28/2012 7:24 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

well nor did you my friend as you argued against them even as they were part of the app.. and in terms of "comfort" if the makers of the app and requirements for cab drivers ALSO find such documentation "comforting" and the actual number of cabbies who are actually serial killers, quite low, there must be something to it but you'd argue 180 degrees on this just to be who you are... eh?

 
At 6/29/2012 2:33 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"well nor did you my friend as you argued against them even as they were part of the app.. and in terms of "comfort" if the makers of the app and requirements for cab drivers ALSO find such documentation "comforting" and the actual number of cabbies who are actually serial killers, quite low, there must be something to it but you'd argue 180 degrees on this just to be who you are... eh?"

The topic of discussion seems to be slipping away from you.

I guess I've wasted enough time on you.

 
At 6/29/2012 8:09 AM, Blogger Bruce Oksol - oksol@yahoo.com said...

This concern about hitchhiking and serial killings seems to be a bit exaggerated.

At worse, the likelihood of being killed by a serial killer is probably not more than once in a given lifetime.

 
At 6/29/2012 8:27 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

think about this:

When you call a Cab, it's one number with one person at the other end who answers "Downtown Cab" or similar and you can verify the number and company.

Yes, it's possible that it's a serial killer who has gone through the trouble of setting up a "front" operation and/or it's possible the dispatched cabbie just hired on and is a serial killer or whatever...

...but not very likely...and yes, I would agree that anyone who has concerns about public cab companies sending serial killers to pick them up - is paranoid.

.. contrast that with sending out a broadcast to an unknown number of people who have signed up to provide rides even though they have been "checked".

so it's more like sending a message to ALL cab company drivers and asking for a ride... a much larger pool of people... than calling one company who sends one cab.

While the company says that it does background, license and insurance checks, the key here is - do they get updates that tell them when the guy has lost his insurance or been in a wreck or been convicted of assaulting someone?

So basically, you have to have a staff of people whose job it is to maintain a valid, up-to-date list of the folks who not only initially qualified but remain qualified AND are still willing to provide service.

It's not an impossible thing but there is way more to it than writing a peer-to-peer smartphone app.

It's more akin to an actual cab company operation with freelance drivers than a purely peer-to-peer operation.

and there will be opposition from traditional providers who have to meet higher regulatory standards such as CDLs and/or Chauffeur special licenses.

Will we ever have a category called "unregulated" taxi services?

Does the public want unregulated taxi services?

 
At 6/29/2012 8:42 AM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Note: "SideCar goes through tremendous measures to ensure that all drivers are safe. Not only must community drivers have a valid driver's license, insurance and a good car in working order, but we also run background checks, conduct interviews and extensively test them with secret shoppers. We also use GPS technology to track the progress of every trip."

 
At 6/29/2012 10:21 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

yep.. did read that....

and I'm all FOR the service

but it does have to meet public expectations...or I should say.. it has to be "competitive" with regard to other services and that's for the public to decide.

and probably regulations...

but also to recognize that it's not a peer-to-peer service with a pure willing seller - willing buyer paradigm.

I'd agree that it's a frontal challenge to govt-sanctioned services that ostensibly establish and require safety and "fitness" standards (that then are co-opted by the regulated businesses themselves to squash competitive services).

 
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