In 2015, the Oxford English Dictionary added ride-share to its pages. Ridesharing is the act of filling empty seats by pairing drivers and riders who share common origins, destinations, or stops en route. When trips are pooled, people split costs, ease traffic, and lighten the load on infrastructure, while curtailing emissions per person.
A wave of technologies has accelerated ridesharing’s popularity:
- Smartphones allow people to share real-time information about where they are and where they are going.
- The algorithms that match them with others and map the best routes are improving daily.
- Social networks are buoying trust, so individuals are more likely to hop in with someone they have not met.
Getting people to double or triple up in their cars is not always easy. When fuel is cheap, carpooling declines. An abundance of free or cheap parking also steers people to journey solo. So does the desire for autonomy, privacy, and expedience.
For many, cars have seemed indispensable to day-to-day life. But, increasingly, mobility is seen as a service to access. When cars are used collaboratively, you can catch a glimpse of the future—one with fewer cars overall.
Oxford English Dictionary…ride-share: Steinmetz, Katy. “Oxford Dictionaries Adds Janky, EGOT and Ridesharing.” TIME. February 26, 2015.
“ride alone…ride with Hitler!”: Pursell, Weimer. When You Ride Alone You Ride with Hitler! Government Printing Office for the Office of Price Administration, NARA Still Picture Branch, 1943. https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/powers_of_persuasion/use_it_up/images_html/ride_with_hitler.html.
1970s, the heyday of ridesharing: Chan, Nelson D., and Susan A. Shaheen. “Ridesharing in North America: Past, Present, and Future.” Transport Reviews, 32, no. 1 (2012): 93-112.
2008…10 percent of Americans commuted jointly: Chan and Shaheen, “Ridesharing.”
[In] 100 cars…six carry another commuter: Polzin, Steven. “The Decline of Carpooling.” Planetizen. February 25, 2015.
BlaBlaCar…share long-distance trips: Buhr, Sarah. “France’s Singular Unicorn BlaBlaCar’s Secret to Scaling Fast Globally.” TechCrunch. December 8, 2015.
China…[Uber] pooled trips: Manjoo, Farhad. “Car-Pooling Helps Uber Go the Extra Mile.” New York Times. March 30, 2016.
Waze…for carpooling: Alba, Davey. “Google’s Waze Launches a Ridesharing Service in Israel.” WIRED. July 6, 2015.
Lyft…commuting feature: Siddiqui, Faiz. “Lyft Ditches Casual Carpooling, Citing a Lack of Driver Interest.” Washington Post. August 24, 2016.
Putnam…“bowling alone”: Putnam, Robert D. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.