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SideCar offers smartphone-based ride-sharing

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Eric Risberg/AP/File

(Read caption) Traffic moves across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. A new smartphone-based ride-sharing program called SideCar matches drivers and passengers headed in the same direction.

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After a four-month beta program in San Francisco with a reported 10,000 test rides, SideCar officially launched today (June 26) 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 log in to the app whenever it suits me, so it’s completely flexible for my schedule.”

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