After a four-month beta program in San Francisco with a reported 10,000 test rides, SideCar officially launched today as “the first on-demand rideshare community.” Though the company's beta test was invitation only, the service spread by word of mouth and SideCar enjoyed high numbers of repeat participants in both the driver's and passenger's seats. The peer-to-peer ride-sharing service claims to be more than just a platform — it's being dubbed a transportation community which brings one more option into the shareable transportation fray.
Using the free SideCar mobile app, drivers and passengers can find each other instantaneously and share on-demand rides. Rather than call a cab, riders can use their smartphones to find a SideCar ride. Passengers use the app to set their pick-up and drop-off locations, then track their SideCar driver in real-time to get an estimated pick up time.
The app also tracks progress to destination in real-time, offers a constantly adjusted ETA, and lets riders easily message arrival information to those at the destination. I especially like the progress tracker that uses mapping software. It offers added assurance that you're actually headed in the right direction.
The mobile app includes sharing and rating features (for both riders and drivers), as well as an electronic tip jar so the rider can help cover the driver's expenses. SideCar is finding that the contributions often cover drivers' vehicle maintenance and operation costs. And voluntary online donations keep the service within the definition of ride sharing instead of a taxi service, though the latter is exactly what Sidecar aims to disrupt.
But, as SideCar driver Eric Janson notes, it's not all about the money: “I started out driving to cover the cost of my car, but now I just love meeting all the interesting people this city has to offer. I often see the same people and I'm getting to know them. It’s more fun than you can imagine at first. The other great thing is I can login to the app whenever it suits me, so it’s completely flexible for my schedule.”
To bolster trust and safety of all concerned, SideCar offers a number of impressive features. They seem to have taken this aspect of the service quite seriously, and for good reason as given high profile incidents at sharing economy leaders Airbnb and RelayRides. For passengers safety, SideCar offers:
- Criminal background checks for all drivers
- Confirmed drivers license and screening of DMV records
- Interviews with all drivers before allowing them onto the system.
- The location of the vehicle is tracked by GPS. This location is recorded by SideCar and the passenger can also share this
- Tracking with friends during your ride.
- Passengers rate drivers and SideCar investigates any low ratings and removes members who get consistently bad feedback
- Photos of the driver and the car are provided through the app
For drivers, SideCar encourages civility by passengers in a few ways:
- No anonymity: a valid credit card and smartphone are required to be a part of the community.
- Drivers rate passengers and repeat offenders are removed from the community.
- No cash changes hands
SideCar's CEO and co-founder, Sunil Paul, boasts, “SideCar is more than just the easiest way to get around the city. We have created a platform for the first ever crowd-sourced transportation network. With SideCar we can help reduce urban congestion, fight climate change and bring back a sense of community and connection to our cities.”