With little fanfare a new app has just been released in the UK which could signal a profound change in the way many of us travel each day, pointing to a new paradigm for daily commuting. The new Liftshare app (Android, with iPhone to follow shortly) works by linking together those who need a ride with those who are offering a seat in their car. It’s not a new idea, but what’s different with Liftshare is the fact that there are already 400,000 people subscribed to the service, which is no small number.
There are other similar services in Europe, such as BlaBlaCar and Carpooling, but Liftshare is the first service that has produced a fully end to end process in an app, including booking, rating drivers and passengers and offering cashless payments. The idea is to make it as easy to hitch a ride with someone as ordering a takeaway pizza.
The app itself is designed to be as easy to use as possible, with bold clear graphics, and not too much information overload. The search is also very easy, and you can identify any possible lifts within a matter of moments. Once you’ve found a match, you can book, contact and pay very easily as well. The big surprise is how many rides are actually on offer, at least from town to town. Inner city routes seem to have fewer options, probably because the price that can be charged is less.
Speaking of prices, users of the service definitely get a massive financial advantage. In our tests, we saw prices for trips that were typically less than a 1/3 of the same journey on public transport such as a train. And of course the driver gets to cut their fuel costs too. There’s also the fact that if you can connect for a long term commute share, you’re going to save a huge amount of money each year, which is not to be sneezed at. It’s a great example of the kind of disintermediation made famous by AirBnB and Uber.
The app also offers some cool additional features aimed at making the whole process as easy and painless as possible. There’s a full featured chat function included, so driver and passenger can coordinate more efficiently, and there are push notifications to help alert people when the journey is due and imminent. The app also prompts people to leave reviews after the journey is over. Very slick.
All in all this is a very interesting move in the travel space, one which could have as much of a long term effect as AirBnB had on hotels. It’s not just the app, but the fact that the service already has nearly half a million members that really counts. This is the kind of crucial momentum which things like this need, if they’re ever going to be truly disruptive. We shall be watching this one carefully.