A brief history of rideshare

History of Rideshare

There is nothing new about sharing a ride, carpooling and lift clubs.  Yet, nearly 80% of the cars regularly travelling into the Cape Town CBD every morning have only one person in each.  Let’s look at a brief history of rideshare to see if we can identify where the problem is.

Realising the benefit of sharing car journeys has been going on formally since the first fuel shortage circa 1945 and may date back to the invention of the wheel in 3500BC.

If we ignore the recent hijacking of the term by the e-hailing taxi industry we might contemplate three major shifts in the paradigm.

First was the humble Notice Board.

Before the internet, you simply dried out and flattened a piece of tree and shared your contact and journey details by nailing it to another piece of tree so that others who made a similar journey might make contact with you.

Next came the Internet.

By the late 1990s the internet provided an improved platform for subscribing to notices or ‘lists’ which could now be shared beyond the boundaries of an organisation or a building.

There were still shortcomings. Firstly, although the tree was no longer required, the lists in many cases became closed lists. You might not discover the perfect ride share candidate who works two floors below you because he/she subscribes to a different list.  Or the list was hosted on a different part of the internet.   Evidently desk based access to the internet was a pre-requisite. Lastly, there was little or nothing in it for the host so the quality of the list was dubious.

Then came the App.

Circa 2010, two technological advancements ushered in a whole new era of possibility; specifically the advent of affordable smart phones connected to high speed data networks and the wide scale availability of affordable cloud based compute and storage facilities.

We now have the potential for a fully fledged, pocket based, transport solution which allows for the discovery of the best ride share partner all the way through to the settlement of shared costs using mobile payments.

Best of all, if correctly implemented, this approach provides all the security benefits of a ring fenced community along with the benefits of a single eco-system where you might find a better match should you venture beyond your ring fence.

Let’s measure today’s solution against the known challenges for rideshare to overcome.

Accessibility – a pocket based solution, running on a Smart phone costing less than R1,000 accessing the deepest pool of travellers

Flexibility – the ability to rank matches and make multiple arrangements covering different times of a working day reducing the possibility of being stranded.

Reliability – stakeholders, employers or Government could reward those who demonstrate their commitment to ride share with a promo-code subsidised transport sweeper service option, if all else fails.

Safety – the option to subscribe to a ring-fenced community, the ability to carry the badge of your community, a verified cell phone number along with a rating system negate the possibility of riding with a complete stranger.

Benefits – The cost and health benefits of rideshare to individuals, organisations, road authorities and society are enormous and well documented.

In the US, regular carpooling has declined from its 20% high point in the 1970s to settle somewhere around 10%.  In Cape Town, that figure is below 3%.  The advent of an app might help that rise to between 7% and 10% and would save more 65,000 road trips per day.

Who knows, we might positively impact our planet and make the world a better, no wait…

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