Carpooling, or ride sharing, is one of the most popular ways to get around in many places in Europe. We had the pleasure of speaking with Carpooling.com, one of the largest providers of carpooling sites to European countries. Here’s what we learned!
What is Carpooling.com? How does it work?
Carpooling.com is a marketplace where people can share rides. With a few clicks, drivers can offer rides and passengers can book a seat. People can choose who they want to ride with, how much space and comfort they need, where they want to meet and what they are willing to pay. Rides can be accessed by computer, mobile phone (iPhone, Android) or social networks (Facebook). With mobile apps and location-based technology, carpooling can be spontaneously organized on-the-go and users can access their online ticket at anytime. Carpooling.com gives easy access to affordable transport, even at the last minute, so it has become very popular in Europe. Today we have more than 3.5 million registered users.
How much money does carpooling save on gas and how much does it reduce in auto emission?
Ridesharing is a simple solution with enormous economical, ecological and social benefits. Since the creation of carpooling.com, 375 million liters of gas were saved and 725.000 tons of CO2 were prevented from entering the atmosphere - all with a few clicks of a mouse or smartphone.
By sharing a ride, drivers save up to 75% on their gas costs.
Is there a certain perimeter where carpooling is only allowed? Are there certain pick up/drop off locations or do you get car service at your specific location?
Carpooling is allowed anywhere! Drivers can specify the time and meeting place of their rides as well as other details about their journey as a comment for each ride. There are, of course, popular pick up and drop off locations such as outside main train stations, gas stations and near popular landmarks.
What do you do to ensure the safety of your drivers and riders?
Carpooling.com includes many features that ensure a safe and reliable ride. Our user rating system allows people to rate their journey. Each assigns scores indicating how punctual their travel companion was, whether they kept to their agreements, how comfortable they felt throughout the experience and generally how they rate the journey. Users can also choose to only search rides from authenticated users [those who have sent a copy of their ID]; and women can choose to only travel with other women. Many users often post their car’s number plate in their profile in order to help passengers identify them at the meeting points - a further feature which increases accountability and trust. Finally Facebook users can connect according to common interests or friendships.
In the past ten years, the most serious complaints have involved trivial issues such as forgetting a cell phone in the car or arriving too late. We have a very active customer service team to answer questions and issues and to delete any unwanted users from the system.
According to your website, you are localized in 9 different countries. Do you see yourself expanding anymore?
We had instant success in every country where we launched, even in countries such as Poland or Italy, where the concept of ‘carpooling’ did not really exist. This shows how useful our service can be: people are looking for affordable transport everywhere and we get requests from other countries all the time.
We are looking at expanding in the US because it’s a country that embraces innovative ideas when they make sense. Today there are many local carpooling sites in the US, which are targeted to specific users such as students but no one has offered carpooling as a new transportation for all users like we do in Europe. In the US, people are very mobile and value convenient and affordable services. There is also a lot of political focus aimed at reducing carbon emissions and, in some states, traffic congestion is very high and public transport is quite unreliable. Carpooling will be a great mobility solution for many people.
How many people would you say use carpooling.com per month?
Carpooling.com transports over 1 million people each month across 5,000 cities and 45 countries.
Why do you think that people should start carpooling/the importance of carpooling?
Carpooling.com believes that everyone should have access to affordable transport. By sharing a ride, people have access to a mobility solution that is affordable and sustainable. Pollution, traffic, parking and road maintenance are reduced: everyone benefits!
With 1 billion cars in the world, single occupancy commuting is such a waste of resources.
Where is Carpooling most popular in Europe?
Carpooling is most popular in Germany, where the concept of ‘mitfahrzentrale’ agencies to connect drivers and passengers has existed offline for decades. In Germany, people now consider carpooling as a new option for traveling and our site has become as popular as sites such as Expedia or LastMinute. France comes next thanks to incentives from the government that every large city and company must define a mobility plan to reduce their carbon emissions. Many local carpooling sites started this way. It’s also really popular in Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, The UK, Belgium The Netherlands… the list goes on and the number of rides on our site is growing on a daily basis. It’s everywhere now, even in countries such as Ukraine and Estonia!
Why do you think Carpooling has become so popular in Europe and not in the US?
In Europe, people are much more used to public transportation than in the US so the concept of sharing a ride with other people is very familiar. However, the factors that push people toward carpooling in Europe are definitely increasing. Many people are looking for solutions to reduce their transport budget - and many are also concerned about our planet and how they can contribute to reducing their carbon footprint. Carpooling helps address both these concerns by transforming the empty seats in people’s cars into an extensive transportation network. When there are transport strikes, carpooling is also a great way to express solidarity with those around you.
In the US, it’s important to note that there is also a rich history of carpooling. Carpooling first came to prominence in WWII during rationing-efforts. Later, following the environmental activism of the 60s and early 70s, the first carpool lane was installed on the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge in 1971 to reduce congestion and move people more quickly.
The reason that carpooling became less popular in the US over time has probably had more to do with changing lifestyle factors rather than a diminishing need (indeed, today’s rising gas prices, the recession and increased congestion problems are all factors that drive the need for carpooling initiatives). As people became more mobile with busier lives and increased work commitments, carpooling simply became too inconvenient. No-one wants to wait around for hours because their carpool buddy got stuck in a meeting.
Today, however, this is no longer an issue. The Internet, GPS technology, smartphones and social networks now make it possible to share rides in a way that was never possible before. The traditional carpool of yesterday has been replaced by the new spontaneous ridesharing of today. With our free iPhone and Android apps, carpooling can now be organized on-the-go. So when you’re late at work, all you have to do is pull out your phone and book a later ride.
This is really working in Europe and we don’t see why it can’t become as popular in the US. With carpooling, you save money and get a convenient door-to-door service. Who doesn’t want that?
Anything else you would like to share with our readers about Carpooling?
We notice that when people try carpooling for the first time, they usually do it for the money. However they often come back for other reasons as well: they enjoy it! When you share a car, when you share a book, when you share an idea, you forge connections with the people around you. In an age where people are increasingly isolated, carpooling helps to promote solidarity and social links within communities. Since the creation of the site, we have facilitated thousands of friendships and more than 10 marriages!