Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

SideCar Ride-Sharing App Does Its Own Surge Pricing for New Year’s Eve

SideCar, a peer-to-peer instant ride-sharing app, today told users via email that it planned to double its suggested donations for drivers on New Year’s Eve, effectively instituting “surge pricing” a la Uber.

SideCarscreensThe direct parallel is to New Year’s Eve last year, when Uber surprised some users by instituting dynamic pricing — for instance, charging one San Francisco user $75 for a two-minute black-car ride.

Uber has since made its “surge pricing” an ongoing part of regular usage, though it continues to rankle some people. The company’s explanation is that when demand is so high, the economics change, and increasing prices makes it worth the drivers’ while.

So now SideCar, a peer-to-peer alternative, is trying to do something similar. What makes this interesting is that SideCar is trying to redistribute supply and demand in a shared economy. Uber doesn’t employ its drivers, but it does get to set and enforce prices.

In order to comply with taxi regulations for nonprofessional drivers, SideCar suggests “community average donations” rather than using a more obvious term like “payments.” The service dynamically calculates a donation amount based on similar rides, and then it’s up to the rider to pay or not, enforced by social norms.

So SideCar can’t mandate much of anything, but it’s posing the price increase as a way to show appreciation for drivers.

Obviously, driving drunk revelers around can get annoying, and SideCar drivers aren’t employed by the company or put on shifts (unlike competitor Lyft), so they have even less incentive to get behind the wheel instead of enjoying the evening themselves.

Said a SideCar spokeswoman, “Knowing that NYE will be the busiest party night of the year, we want to do what we can to get drivers on the road to offer as many safe, reliable rides as possible. We talked to drivers and they told us that bigger donations would be an added incentive to come out that night. Donations are still voluntary and up to the rider. Ultimately, we want to be the safest, most reliable way for people to get around and we’re looking into different ways to meet demand as we grow.”

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