Markets in Everything: On-Demand Ridesharing
From today's San Francisco Chronicle, an article about how social media, smart-phone technology and "on-demand ridesharing" is challenging the city's taxi cartel:
The taxi business in San Francisco is famously fractious. "It's like a car crash - you can't look away," says Hansu Kim, owner of DeSoto Cab Co. Drivers and cab companies bicker, freelance town cars poach fares, and there are not enough cabs on the streetHT: Morgan Frank
That's how it has been for years, which is why it's been easy for some savvy startups to jump into the market. They've invented smartphone apps that combine ride sharing, social media and (in one case) pink mustaches to capture a trendy new way to get around town. Suddenly, a taxi looks old, dated and sadly unhip.
The startups - SideCar, Lyft, Uber, RelayRides and Getaround - let riders pay with a preloaded credit, request a ride with a click of a smartphone and track it in real time on a Google map. It's far more efficient than calling a switchboard, talking to a surly dispatcher and standing on the corner at 2 a.m. wondering whether a cab would show up.
"We are offering a more enjoyable alternative," said John Zimmer, co-founder of Lyft, which uses cars with pink mustaches. "We offer a marginally less-expensive experience with extreme convenience and personality experience."
The popularity of these companies is forcing taxi folks to realize they need to make changes. "The industry is spoiled," said Kim. "Many of the ills have been self-inflicted."