Real-time ridesharing

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An Uber ride in Bogotá, Colombia running the Uber app on his dashboard-mounted smartphone

Real-time ridesharing (also known as instant ridesharing, dynamic ridesharing, ad-hoc ridesharing, on-demand ridesharing, and dynamic carpooling) is a service that arranges one-time shared rides on very short notice.[1] This type of carpooling generally makes use of three recent technological advances:[2]

  • GPS navigation devices to determine a driver's route and arrange the shared ride
  • Smartphones for a traveler to request a ride from wherever they happen to be
  • Social networks to establish trust and accountability between drivers and passengers

These elements are coordinated through a network service, which can instantaneously handle the driver payments and match rides using an optimization algorithm.

Like carpooling, real-time ridesharing is promoted as a way to better utilize the empty seats in most passenger cars, thus lowering fuel usage and transport costs. It can serve areas not covered by a public transit system and act as a transit feeder service. Ridesharing is also capable of serving one-time trips, not only recurrent commute trips or scheduled trips.[3]

Real-time ridesharing is specially suitable for daily commuting to workplace. Because such trips happen at peak hour time, when traffic jams cause cars to pollute an 80% more [4], additional benefits for the urban environment and climate change mitigation are expected by a reduction in the number of cars riding daily by the cities with a single occupant, and their related CO2 and NOx emmisions.

The explosive growth of Uber and Lyft has created a new traffic problem for major U.S. cities and ride-sharing options such as UberPool and Lyft Line are exacerbating the issue by appealing directly to customers who would otherwise have taken transit, walked, biked or avoided the trip, according to a new study.[5]

In the early 2010s, several transportation network companies were introduced that were advertised as ridesharing, but in fact dispatched commercial operators similar to a taxi service. The first such service to appear on the market was the San Francisco–based company Sidecar (launched in 2011).[6] Transportation experts have called these services "ridesourcing" to clarify that drivers do not share a destination with their passengers; the app simply outsources rides to commercial drivers.[7] Despite multiple efforts to re-name the category, it still is commonly referred to as, "ridesharing."

"Ridesharing" has been controversial, variously criticized as lacking adequate regulation, insurance, licensure, and training. One of the main so-called ridesharing (but actually ridesourcing) firms, Uber, has been banned in major cities such as Frankfurt, Barcelona, Vancouver, Buffalo and a number of other cities around the world.[8] Opposition may also come from taxi companies and public transit operators,[3] because they are seen as unfair and unregulated alternatives.[9]

Potential market[edit]

A 2010 survey at the University of California, Berkeley found 20% of respondents willing to use real-time ridesharing at least once a week; and real-time ridesharing was more popular among current drive-alone commuters (30%) than transit or non-motorized commuters.[10] The top obstacles to using real-time ridesharing were short trip lengths and the added time of ride logistics.[10]


Early real-time ridesharing projects began in the 1990s, but they faced obstacles such as the need to develop a user network and a convenient means of communication.[11] Gradually the means of arranging the ride shifted from telephone to internet, email, and smartphone; and user networks were developed around major employers and universities.[12] As of 2006, the goal of taxi-like responsiveness still generally eluded the industry; "next day" responsiveness was considered the state of the art.[13] More recently taxi-sharing systems that accept taxi passengers’ real-time ride requests via smartphones have been proposed and studied.[14]

A number of technology companies based in San Francisco premiered apps for real-time ridesharing around 2012. However, in the fall of 2012, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a cease and desist letter to rideshare companies Lyft, Uber, Wingz, and Sidecar, and fined each $20,000.[15] In 2013 an agreement was reached reversing those actions,[16] creating a new category of service called "Transportation Network Companies" to cover both real-time and scheduled ride-sharing companies.[17] Transportation Network Companies have faced regulatory opposition in many other cities, including Los Angeles,[18][19] Chicago,[20] New York City,[21] and Washington, D.C.[22]

Two dynamic ridesharing pilots in Norway received government funds from Transnova in 2011. One pilot in Bergen had 31 passengers in private cars during one day. Thirty-nine users acted as drivers or passengers between June 30 and September 15 with four ridesharing episodes or more. The phone apps that was used was Avego Driver[23] and cell client,[24] a prototype developed for the NPRA of Norway. The other pilot is run by the company Sharepool.[25]

Some more advanced real-time ridesharing features have been proposed but not implemented. For example, longer trips might be facilitated using "multihop" matches in which passengers change cars to reach their final destination.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Amey, A., J. Attanucci, and R. Mishalani. "'Real-Time' Ridesharing – The Opportunities and Challenges of Utilizing Mobile Phone Technology to Improve Rideshare Services." TRB Annual Meeting, 2011.
  2. ^ Ecosummit TV – ECO11 – Young Future Mobility Leaders – Panel - ECOSUMMIT - Smart Green Economy Network and Conference
  4. ^ M. Treiber. "Cars pollute 80% more at traffic jams". Dresden University.
  5. ^ "Services like UberPool are making traffic worse, study says". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-08-01. 
  6. ^ Said, Carolyn. "Ride-sharing pioneer Sidecar to shut down ride, delivery service". SF Gate. 
  7. ^ Rayle, L., S. Shaheen, N. Chan, D. Dai, and R. Cervero. "App-Based, On-Demand Ride Services: Comparing Taxi and Ridesourcing Trips and User Characteristics in San Francisco". University of California Transportation Center, 2014.
  8. ^ Jeff John Roberts (12 April 2016). "These 5 Famous Cities Still Don't Have Uber". Fortune. Retrieved 22 July 2016. 
  9. ^ Brooks, Jon (7 November 2013). "Will 'Ride Sharing' Kill San Francisco's Taxi Industry?". KQED. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Elizabeth Deakin, Karen Trapenberg Frick, and Kevin Shively. 2012. "Dynamic Ridesharing Archived 2014-03-23 at the Wayback Machine.." Access, 40: 23-28.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Chan, Nelson and Susan Shaheen. "Ridesharing in North America: Past, Present, and Future." Transportation Research Board, 2010. Archived 2011-06-26 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ United States Department of Transportation. "ADVANCED PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS: THE STATE OF THE ART UPDATE 2006".
  14. ^ Ma, S., Zheng, Y., Wolfson, O., "Real-Time City-Scale Taxi Ridesharing", IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering, vol. 27, pp. 1782–1795, 2015
  15. ^ Tomio Geron, Forbes Staff (28 January 2013). "Tickengo's Willie Brown Wants Revenue Cap For Ride-Sharing Drivers". Forbes. Retrieved 2013-01-28. 
  16. ^ Lawler, Ryan (31 Jan 2013). "A Day After Cutting a Deal with Lyft, California Regulator Reaches an Agreement with Uber as Well". TechCrunch. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  17. ^ Geron, Tomio (9 Sep 2013). "California Becomes First State To Regulate Ridesharing Services [Lyft], Sidecar, UberX". Forbes. Retrieved 23 Oct 2013. 
  18. ^ Tuttle, Brad (27 Jun 2013). "Rideshare Battle Shifts to L.A.: City Tells Uber, Lyft, SideCar to Stop Picking Up Riders". Time. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  19. ^ Rodriguez, Salvador (2 Jul 2013). "Lyft expands to San Diego amid cease-and-desist order in Los Angeles". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  20. ^ "Uber Sued By Taxi And Livery Companies In Chicago For Consumer Fraud And More". TechCrunch. October 5, 2012. Retrieved October 6, 2012. 
  21. ^ Uber shuts down New York City taxi beta, may see light at the end of the (Lincoln) tunnel in February (update: TLC responds) - Engadget
  22. ^ Greene, David (January 31, 2012). "Upstart Car Service Butts Heads with D.C.'s Taxis". NPR. 
  23. ^ Avego Ltd
  24. ^ website
  25. ^ Sharepool website (Norwegian)