Clicky

badge

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Intercity Carpooling Apps like Bla Bla & Tripda: Pros and cons

Many websites and apps are coming into play providing a platform for car pooling. People who have a car can post their trip and people who want to hitch a ride can book a seat with such car owners. In principle, this looks like a cool idea for car owners to earn something extra while providing an alternate and probably more convenient and cheaper option to commuters.
Contextual Image: Audi A3 Cabriolet- Would jump in literally if a ride is offered in this, any day any time anywhere!
Bla Bla car is one such platform that has been advertising heavily and I have noticed some of my facebook friends using their service. Tripda.in is another emerging website.

There're some basic challenges in this model- main thing is that it is not legal for white board car owners to ferry general public for money. Such commercial use, if detected by police/RTO officials could lead the owner into trouble.

Second is that not all seats are equally comfortable. Second row middle seat is least comfortable while first row seats are most comfortable. Third being that there's no clear process for negative scenarios- when things go wrong or when there're conflicts of preferences/interest.

In this post, I am presenting a basis analysis of such a service/platform- their pros and cons. Both car owners and consumers must keep these possibilities in mind, in order to avoid inconveniences.
For car owners offering seats during a trip
Pros
Cons
1 Earn some decent extra amount
If you have a 5 seater car and driving solo to Bangalore from Chennai, you can take 4 passengers and charge them say Rs 400 or Rs 500 each, which is a bit cheaper than a AC bus ride. This amount will help you recover most of fuel expense and toll expense, which you otherwise incur anyway

2 Make new friends

3 Serves a greater cause of saving fuel
Compared to everyone driving solo or hiring different vehicles.

1 Commercial use of personal vehicle is NOT legal
White board car owners are not supposed to indulge in commercial activity in their vehicle. Carpooling for money is a clear violation of such a law. This may go unnoticed during initial times, but after sometime owners providing such service might face legal action. Once volume increases and regular taxi operators get affected or when some negative incidents happen, this service will get unwanted publicity and law enforcement machinery will get cracking.

2. Risk of damage to car
Car is your personal thing- you might have customized it a lot and you may have lots of personal stuff inside. A regular passenger may not care much. If they smoke or spill liquids on the seats, spoil the switches or other electro-mechanical things related to the car during the journey, repair expense can exceed any saving/earning you made during the trip.

3. Compromise on convenience
You announced a trip to leave on Friday evening and got some passengers. Now your work is over by noon itself and you’re thinking of leaving post lunch. Others may not be able to change their plans and join early, which means you will have to compromise on the convenience of moving as per your choice and need to stick to what you have committed. Similarly as an owner you are responsible for your passengers, so you need to keep their safety, comfort and convenience in mind while driving- can’t afford to adapt a route/speed etc that might be of your choice.
For commuters buying a seat in a car-pool ride.
Pros
Cons
1 An alternate way to travel
If getting a bus/train ticket is not possible or expensive, hitching a car ride could be convenient option

2 Make new friends.
In the ideal condition, assuming all fellow riders are friendly and well behaved, you might get to make new friends on the move

3. Door to door Pickup & drop
If offered by car owner, can save extra money spent on auto/taxi to reach bus stand/railway station


1 Not being able to select the seat.
In a bus or a train, almost all seats will have same size, space and comfort. But in a car, front seat next to driver will have maximum comfort- push back, arm-rest, headrest, power windows, AC, Airbags etc, while second row usually lacks many of these conveniences. Though a sedan can seat 5, it is comfortable only for 4 people on a long ride. If car is housing 5 people and you happen to sit in the middle of second row, you will have the most inconvenient seat among all.  Both car owners and commuters should be cognizant of this fact. This aspect needs to be discussed manually with car owner.

2 Not enough protection against negative scenarios.
Platforms that bring car owner and guest together often do not take responsibility for quality, reliability and safety. If things go wrong (Car owner cancels a ride last minute or fellow passengers are very rude, rash driving, not willing to drop off at a place of choice etc), it is left to customers and car owners to sort out the issue. Without a clear policy to fallback on, sorting out negative scenarios depend on individual’s skill to manage a situation.

3 Dealing with preferences
One person wants loud music, other wants to sleep
One person prefers AC to be turned to high, while other person feels it is very cold
One person wants to stop at a non-veg restaurant, while other is pure vegetarian
One person asks driver to go faster, but other person gets scary of the speed and prefers to go slow
Dealing with situations like above can get tricky, as it is not possible to satisfy everyone. Some people will feel cheated that they didn’t get best of services despite paying same as others.

4 Lack of Standardization
A volvo bus seat or a sleeper train seat is a well known thing and you have a decent idea of what to expect when you book one. But in a car pooling scheme, comfort and convenience varies largely from ride to ride, depending on car type, condition, driver and many other factors. Sometimes experience will be good, at times it may not.
2nd row seats are not as comfortable as first row seats
Do share your opinion. Have you tried offering services in a car pooling tool or have you experienced a ride in car pooling? Do you agree with my points?

Similar posts: Buying vs Renting a car * Road Trip- Bike vs Car which is better? * What happens if Google Self drive car is put to use in Bangalore? * Zoomcar vs Carzonrent self drive rental

20 comments :

Anonymous said...

I think the foremost problem will be lack of security-you never know who you might be driving with. They may be carrying illegal stuff in their luggage, which if & when found by cops at a checkpost would land everyone in the car into trouble.

IMO at least in India, this is best done if the co-passengers are friends of friends and have a good reputation. Else it's better to take public transport/drive solo.

Of course from legal POV, one can't offer a ride in their vehicle in exchange for money, so this scheme is a risk in itself. Private car owners can hire a driver for the sole reason of using their vehicle as an unofficial taxi and reap a profit, instead of letting the car gather dust parked at home.

However if the govt. takes into consideration that such a scheme would actually help the environment and ease traffic congestion, and amends the law, it might be a pretty economical mode of transport.

Aravind GJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aravind GJ said...

Interesting article!! I do carpool to my Office with friends for past 3 years. It requires lot of flexibility and understanding between people.

But will I do the same with total strangers? I do not think so. The biggest risk is security. That cannot be compromised for money.

Good to see that there are platforms promoting it.

I was looking at their "Terms & Conditions". They would not be responsible if things go wrong.

Anonymous said...

A search for carpools from Bangalore to Chennai showed repeated offers from the same person, almost on a daily basis. I daresay this is an example of what I meant by running an "unofficial taxi" in my previous comment. No one would commute to Chennai on a daily basis, least of all by car.

Also, I just remembered insurance companies usually have a clause that denies liability in case a private vehicle is used for hire/reward. In case of a mishap, if the company comes to know that the vehicle was used to carpool, they might try to wiggle their way out of covering the damages. A single crash alone paid out of the pocket will offset any and all savings that one may make by carpooling.

Anuj said...

Carpooling is NOT illegal. Motor vehicle acts says that carpooling is fine if it is not for making profits. Also, I have seen many advertising by the government itself promoting carpooling. Why would they promote carpooling if it is illegal?

Abhishek said...

I have myself used BlaBlaCar quite a few times to travel on Delh-Chandigarh. I think it is fantastic because there are tonnes of options available for the weekend. Otherwise, I have to book Shatabdi almost a week in advance to get a confirmed ticket. Curious to see how this evolves in India!

BlaBlaCar said...

The reason our members use BlaBlaCar is to share costs (and not make a profit) which means a private car insurance will hold and be valid. No separate insurance is required. To ensure that car-owners respect this principle, BlaBlaCar recommends a price per passenger for every journey and this price is capped. This is a contribution towards the car-owners’ fuel and running costs. Cost-sharing is perfectly legal, we do it every day with our friends and family. We also use a combination of personal verifications and social verifications to build our trusted community. Our Member Relations team work around the clock moderating member profiles to ensure the BlaBlaCar community remains a place of trust. These verifications along with Facebook sign-up, member's profile, bio, photo, their travel preferences and ratings(from co-travellers), enable us to offer a great service for matching car-owners and co-travellers. Once our members share a ride with one another, they leave each other a rating out of five stars and also leave a short description about each other. This allows other members on the site to know more about their co-travellers before they meet! Our members usually speak with each other before travelling together. This, along with viewing the co-travellers profile, enables members to CHOOSE someone they are happy to travel with. We have a trusted community with 2 million members travelling with BlaBlaCar every month and we'll keep doing our best to give our members the opportunity to display enough information about themselves and to travel last minute, in comfort and at an affordable price! Kind Regards,
BlaBlaCar Team

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Anon: Agree. Safety and security can be a concern

I also mentioned about prohibition on commercial activity.


@Aravind: Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Of course platforms like Uber also didn't care much about safety. Only after negative publicity and ban they acted to take extra steps. Same would happen here also I guess

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Anon: Agree, some people tend to abuse the system everywhere. Platforms should put some checks like driver should be owner, max no of rides per month etc


Insurance companies also need an excuse and this can provide a perfect one.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Anuj

Government's interpretation can vary greatly: Carpooling is fine. Charging for it is not. Original thought of car pooling was this: Suppose there are five guys staying in locality A and they all go to locality B for work everyday. Now, instead of each of them going in their own cars, each day one person brings out his car and others join him, thus saving 4 car worth of fuel and pollution each day. No money is involved.

Changing money immediately makes it a service, so equations change

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Abhishek: Good to know.

@Bla Bla car: Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

but the catch here, is that if there is money involved, it is treated as commercial, even when no profit is made. (For example, flipkart, Ola cabs and many companies haven't made profit yet, but that doesn't mean they are not commercial).

Also deciding right price is tricky- should one factor only fuel expense? what about toll? Car's EMI? possible service bill next month? So different people may have different perception of right price.

However appreciate your detailed response and lots of measures you've in place to minimize risks and inconveniences.

Best wishes

The wild said...

Agree with Aravind ,a lot of my friends do carpool ,but mostly with people they know.

As i always say ,every rule should have checks and balances.And people start skipping them ,thats when the system breaks down.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks The Wild... you're not updating your blog of late?

Anonymous said...

That is why, we as a Carpool Company believe that the commuters today, need understand the concept of Carpooling.

Carpooling is meant for savings and not earning (this is when it becomes a taxi). So if you are spending 200 and making 300, this is illegal. But if you are spending 200 and you opt for carpooling, then 200 is shared amongst 2,3 or 4 people. So all the poolers pool 200 rupees equally hence, bring the expense down by at-least 50% or more. So in Carpooling everyone saves but no body earns.

So the cost of travel for each person came down to Rs100 in case of 2 people, Rs66 in case of 3 and Rs 50 in case of 4. And this concept is not at illegal, as it is making each person Save Money instead of making the Driver earn.

But many companies without understanding the concept have launched the carpooling portals.

Our Mobile app (offDrive Carpooling) is equipped with the Panic button - it instantly send an SOS to the emergency contact detailing the Driver & passengers and even the estimated location. Moreover, the pairing happens with your matching gender only, so a female is paired with a female only. Thirdly, all the members have to submit the Photo ID, address proof, car registration proof etc.

CabAmigo said...

Hi,
As much as we agree that Carpooling is the necessity. we believe that there needs to be a social network for people to connect so that they know who they are sharing the car/cab with. we have started this initiative www.cabamigo.com where people plyingto the airport can see who is having similar plans and share their rides.
www.cabamigo.com
We have released it for bangalore.
Do check it out

Anonymous said...

Dynamic Ridesharing is the way to go for carsharing startups in India, unfortunately i have not seen any of them in India.

Flinc, Lyft, Sidecar are the ones who have adopted DRS and made Facebook account Integration mandatory.

Dynamic Ridesharing software has too many variables and very few have been able to crack.

There are few open source softwares published by Researchers in this field.

I have been reading your posts for quite a while now, great going and keep up the good work.

Gurdip Singh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gurdip Singh said...

We as a company can improve the product, add security and solve daily challenges faced by the commuters and that's what we have done and will continue to do.

offDrive Carpooling is the ONLY company is India, that runs a Pure Carpool Platform and is not based on a Taxi Format - that is why our Per KM rate is the lowest among all the companies (in other words the Driver cannot make profit) we work on the concept of pooling the expense. So if the expense is Rs. 100/- and there are 2 people in the Car the contribution per person is Rs50/- Rs33/- in case of 3 and Rs25/- in case of 4. So the driver cannot make profit with our concept.

The app is equipped with:

1. Panic Button
2. Gender based pairing
3. Rs 1.32/- per KM (applicable on 4 people)
4. Push Notifications and many more to come.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=in.offdrive.app or http://www.offdrive.in

rajan said...

Bla bla car says car pooling by its members is legal as they have put a cap on the rates.
will bla bla car defend its members if they are caught by law accepting the charges from
from a cotraveller for a ride

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Rajan- first it will be difficult for random roadside cop to identify a bla bla ride share car, as cars are white board and occupants will pass off as friends.

Only if traffic department feels the operation is illegal, they might begin a crackdown- like how Uber and Ola bike taxis were confiscated in BLR. So far there is no news of authorities questioning this model