In theory, ridesharing is a great idea. It’s cheaper and often more convenient than taxis, but for some there are too many safety risks associated with getting into a car with a complete stranger. That’s where Perth startup Hitch-a-ride comes in.
Founded by Paul Marriott, Ben Rattingan, Caley Brent-White, Paul McGillvray, Tim Bird, Ryan Gale, and Joel Bindi, Hitch-a-ride works through Facebook to help users get a ride with friends or others in their extended networks. While users can choose to turn their driving into a part time job, like Uber, it mainly aims to facilitate carpooling, helping a driver share the costs of a trip by getting them a passenger who is also going along the same route.
Drivers and passengers have the option to keep the service limited to contacts they know from their direct friends list, or can expand their network. The cost of a ride can be negotiated between drivers and passengers: drivers can charge a flat fee, ask to split the cost of petrol or parking, or simply ask for the passenger to bring the coffee.
Joel Bindi, co-founder of Hitch-a-ride, said that idea for the service came from the founders’ experiences growing up in the country, where public transport options are mostly limited.
“We often use other ways, such as calling everyone or Facebook posts, to get a ride. We thought that it should be possible for us to build an app to help to streamline this process and solve a problem we faced regularly,” Bindi said.
The app is designed so that users are not forced to drive with complete strangers. As well as the Facebook integration, the chat and map features enable users to connect while a driver is on the way to the pick-up destination, allowing them to discuss the route and any other concerns.
Hitch-a-ride also allows users to schedule and plan journeys in advance, so passengers can book a seat in the car ahead of time, while the Facebook-like home feed lets users see which of their friends is offering a ride or in need of a ride in real time. Users can also set up regular rides, for example colleagues heading to work each morning.
The founders have not yet implemented a revenue strategy. Given passengers can pay for rides with things other than money, going the obvious and easy route of taking a percentage of the fee for a drive is out.
Bindi said, “We have a few ideas for monetisation, but we think it’s important to get the product right first. In the long run we wanted to build the platform so it can aggregate information from nearby events using Facebook, so people that are coming and going from an event can connect and drive and hitch together.
“The product has never really been about exchanging and making money. We just wanted people to have a tool that enables them to carpool and travel together. Whether or not they pay money, we don’t really care, it’s up to them to decide.”
Unlike a number of other ridesharing apps, Hitch-a-ride isn’t facing any regulatory issues. Getting a ride with friends and sharing expenses is legal around Australia and carpooling could allow drivers to use special carpool lanes in certain cities.
There are a few existing carpooling platforms in the Australian market, such as coseats.com and Ridesurfer, though they are less for daily carpooling and more for organised hitchhiking, like popular European platform BlaBlaCar, and allow for rides with strangers.
With its iOS app already out, Hitch-a-ride is currently working on its Android platform and a strong collaborative mapping tool that will allow for easier adjusting of routes and stops on the go by those involved in a ride.