Car-for-hire Uber appropriating "ridesharing" virtue
US carpooling originated in the 1940s when it was encouraged by the government to save gas to help win WWII. Carpooling or "ridesharing" is when a driver gives someone a lift on the way to that driver's destination. Once the driver reaches their destination, the driver parks the car for a period of time. In contrast, taxis, Uber, Lyft, and SideCar have drivers working 4- to 8-hour shifts, earning their living giving rides. A ridesharing driver is "one and done" whereas a for-hire driver keeps picking up more fares. Many drivers-for-hire run Uber and Lyft apps simultaneously, to reduce their time between fares. It is a stretch to link driving-for-hire to the sharing economy. Don't get me wrong, Uber & Lyft are incredible. But in their regulatory battle to unseat urban taxi ecosystems, the apps aspire to take a virtuous, green position (e.g. "ridesharing" or "carpooling").
Within carpooling, there are apps that facilitate the formation of lasting commuting carpools that are intended to last for 12 months. The psychology of forming lasting carpools is a barrier, because it is awkward to "fire" a carpool member once they join the carpool. Poolers aren't looking for a best friend, but would like to avoid bother, dirty/smelly cars, unsafe driving, politically charged talk radio, etc. So while Match.com carpool "dating" is overkill, the barriers can be reduced by providing a glimpse of a potential match's FB or LinkedIn profile.
Then there are the apps that facilitate within-60-minutes one-time ridesharing (sometimes called instant or dynamic ridesharing), where a commuter matches up with someone for a one-day or one-time ride: Carma, Carticipate, SAP TwoGo, BlaBlaCar, nuride, carpooling.co.uk, etc. While it might seem simple to exploit the immense river of empty seats that flows past every day, successfully matching schedules and destinations has not yet succumbed to big data analytics. TwoGo attempts to negotiate start time to improve matchmaking probability. These are brilliant apps, but haven't taken off yet. As Steffen Frost of Carticipate said, gas hitting $7 per gallon will really help these services. Politically, even small driving price increases poll 75% unfavorably, so this is difficult.
Increasing occupancy (not counting drivers-for-hire) in cars can yield large climate and congestion benefits, but commuting occupancy has dropped from 1.3 in 1977 to 1.13 currently.
The recently announced service extensions, Uberpool and Lyft Line, are still not carpooling! Without spin, they can be characterized as "car-for-hire shared-ride systems." Hopefully they will thrive and increase vehicle occupancy.
Car-for-hire apps will play a large role when combined with self-driving cars, creating RoboTaxi services. Uber and SideCar CEOs have expressed enthusiasm for eliminating human drivers with lower-paid robots.