No company has really succeeded in doing true ridesharing.
Now I’m not talking about “rideshare” as defined by Sidecar/Lyft etc.: that isn’t really rideshare, that is on demand cab service where the drivers happen to be normal people who own a car. Those drivers wouldn’t be picking you up or driving that route otherwise, so it isn’t really rideshare at all. Their innovation is democratizing the ability to drive for profit and make money of yet another asset we own that is sitting idle. That isn’t to insult either of those companies: they are awesome and I think they have done the world a huge service by helping people who might be struggling make some money on the side by driving for a living.
But it isn’t ridesharing. I think there are two huge problems that speak to why we don’t have a great ridesharing system despite all the attempts. YC has apparently said that the most typical application they get is one trying to do rideshare (no citation on that, heard it through the grapevine through a YC company, so could be wrong).
One problem is the fact that true rideshare, the kind that Zimride first tried out before it focused all its attention on Lyft, or RideJoy attempted, is often Serendipity Based.
As an airport ground transportation search engine we have seen a healthy number of cabshare companies. I don’t have the confidence that many of them will succeed, because they are counting on serendipity to bring two people together at the same time, they both happen to log on and have similar leave times and similar start destinations and end destinations. This requires massive volume.
Shared ride shuttles realized this, that’s why they guarantee pickups between certain hours. [Mozio](http://www.mozio.com)’s only cabshare partner also realizes this and guarantees shared cabs at certain times.
The best way of doing something like this is to build upon an existing platform of normal users, not try to create your own. One goal at Mozio is to eventually let users determine whether they are willing to share the cab they book through us, and then the next time someone searches for a cab to the airport through us, we can include the shared cab as an option. I don’t care enough about sharing a cab to go searching for a ride on a cabshare site, but click a box and have someone who lives a couple blocks away meet me in front of my house to save 20 bucks? Sure, why not.
The second reason is that Costs go up Exponentially when you add different pickup and dropoff points.
How much is a typical public transit ride to the airport in the United States? $5-8 probably. A shared ride shuttle is $15-24. A Cab is $45-65. Notice anything? Something that has 0 variable stops, public transit, it picks up and drops off everyone from the same two destinations, is the cheapest. You pay 3x the cost to change one of those points with a shared shuttle, and to dictate both points of interest, pickup and dropoff, multiply by 3 again.
With those economics its hard to figure out how to share transportation when both the pickup and dropoff points are different.
There has got to be some happy medium, a sort of shared-ride shuttle for normal transportation. I suppose this is supposed to be the function of public transit, but in pretty much the rest of the U.S. other than New York we all know that isn’t the case.
If someone can solve this problem, and I know a couple startups that are trying, it will be a lot of fun to watch. I don’t think Uber, Lyft or Sidecar are the least bit interested in it: why try to match up riders when they can launch another city, and there are always more cities to launch and they have already hit on an extremely lucrative business model. However, part of me thinks an existing platform with a lot of existing inventory getting behind this idea is the only way it will ever happen.