Cleantech Market Intelligence
Social Ridesharing Looks to Avoid Legal Issues
Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft have grown quickly despite resistance from some local governments over their legality of operation. To avoid the legal morass, new services, such as BlueNet-Ride, are leveraging social networks and avoiding directly competing with taxi and limousine services.
Based in Taipei, Taiwan, BlueNet-Ride uses Facebook to connect people interested in attending events. Attendees can carpool or group together to rent a taxi as a means of reducing the cost and emissions of traveling to concerts, sporting, or other events. Created by National Taipei University of Technology Associate Professor of Electronic Engineering Shih-Chia Huang and his students, the service connects Facebook users with friends or friends of friends as a safer alternative to traveling with unknown drivers.
Searching for Riders and Drivers
During an interview in Shenzhen, China, Huang said the backend to the mobile application is an algorithm that searches for people who plan to attend events and maps the distance between driver and passengers, as well as distance to the location. Cab companies participate and offer to drive the groups of acquaintances, or people can offer to drive for free, which avoids the legality of operating an unlicensed taxi service. Ride sharers can volunteer to chip in for gas, and the app has a chat feature so that people can discuss when and where to meet.
Through the free app, commercial drivers can opt to maximize their revenue or drive the shortest distance to be able to serve more customers. A fee of $0.10 is charged by BlueNet-Ride to passengers when they find a ride via a taxi service, and they pay the normal tax fees. Huang received a patent in the United States in 2014 for the ridesharing idea. He has received more than 30 patents in the United States, Europe, Taiwan, and China for a variety of technologies, including mobile applications for gesture recognition, image processing, and liquid crystal display (LCD) modules.
The onslaught of ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft has many state regulators and legislators scrambling on how to regulate the new services. For example, pending bills in Wisconsin and Tennessee would establish rules for companies to pay license fees, as well as background checks for drivers or setting a minimum for liability insurance to be held.
Huang isn’t the only entrepreneur making the friends-to-rides connection. Hitch A Ride is a similar application that connects passengers with drivers via social networks in Australia.