Vancouver companies ready for Uber-competition
Published Friday, January 29, 2016 7:55PM PST
Frustration at standing in the rain watching cars go by with empty seats gave rise to a Vancouver start-up company that aims to bring true “ride-sharing” to Vancouver.
Spare Rides, an app that links passengers to drivers with spare seats, is aiming to start up in February – one of several home-grown transportation solutions that give the big-name ride-hailing app Uber a run for its money.
“We’d love to see the concept of ride-sharing come back to its roots, for everyday people, real ridesharing,” said Josh Andrews, one of the company’s co-founders.
In hundreds of cities worldwide, tech giant Uber has claimed the term “ride-sharing,” referring to its brand of linking passengers with independent vehicles, who charge a fare like a taxi.
It’s that business model that has run it afoul of authorities across Canada, who say the company isn’t playing by the rules. Edmonton was the first Canadian city to legalize it on Wednesday. B.C. is entering into negotiations to make new ride-hailing rules, though it’s not clear when they will arrive.
With Spare Rides, Andrews says the passenger is only charged for gas and parking. That makes each ride cheaper for both the driver and the passenger. The company takes a cut of the money that changes hands.
And, he says, because it’s no different than a few people getting together and splitting a ride, he’s not expecting any issues with regulators.
“It’s just like car pooling, but it’s on demand and it’s real time,” Andrews said. The company is growing in The Next Big Thing, an incubator started by Hootsuite founder Ryan Holmes.
It’s one of several innovative solutions that could change how we use our cars, and make them carry more people and be more efficient.
Another home-grown option, Hitchplanet, allows travelers to catch a ride, and drivers to crowdsource gas money. It’s currently operating.
Ripe Rides, a Yaletown company, built an Uber-like app which currently operates 20 town cars around Vancouver and is licensed.
President Otis Perrick says he could turn on its version of Uber’s app and create a network of independent limousines with a touch of a button.
“We have the technology. We have the infrastructure. And we can implement locally,” Perrick told CTV News. “Keep it local, and that keeps the jobs local and all the benefits that go with it.”
Vancouver is carrying on in the tradition of transportation innovation in Vancouver: 18 years ago, the city became home to the first car-sharing co-op, now called Modo. Members own almost 500 vehicles in Vancouver and the surrounding area.
Modo spokesperson Selena McLachlan said the company is upgrading its vehicles to have more GPS, and one of the options considered is exploring whether or not it could turn its car-sharing service into a ride-sharing service as well.
It’s frustrating for her to see the word “sharing” apply to companies that make money using private property.
“Ride sharing is different than ride-sourcing,” she said.