Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

California Clears SideCar Ride-Sharing App, Months After Competitors

Peer-to-peer ride-sharing service SideCar is cleared to operate in California, the California Public Utilities Commission is expected to announce today.

sidecar_screensNot that this changes anything about how SideCar operates; after being sent a cease-and-desist order and fined $20,000, the company kept its drivers on the road and its mobile apps in riders’ hands.

The CPUC had previously made agreements with Lyft and Uber in January.

SideCar CEO Sunil Paul said the negotiations for his particular company took so long because he got the CPUC to agree to two particular concessions: 1) It cannot obtain driver and rider information without a subpoena, and 2) it agrees that SideCar is an information service, not a transportation service.

Update: The press office of the CPUC provided the text of the agreement, and it is embedded below.

Paul said he did not know the terms of the Lyft and Uber agreements, but that the standard terms did not include these privacy and jurisdiction claims. He said the past few months had been spent negotiating on these principles, and an agreement came through last night.

In Paul’s view, SideCar is significantly different from the competition because it requires riders to input their intended destination in order to find a driver. He calls this “ride matching” instead of “ride sharing,” and says his competitors are instead offering dispatching services, like traditional taxicab companies.

“We like the analogy of Match.com versus arranged marriage,” Paul said. “We are a data and not a transportation service.”

SideCar operates in about 10 cities, including San Francisco (where it started and is based) and Los Angeles. It has run into problems in other cities such as Philadelphia, where authorities conducted a sting, and Austin, where the city council is voting next month on whether it’s legal. In the meantime, the service operates for free in Austin and Philadelphia, while paying drivers out of its own pocket.

Lyft, the closest competitor to SideCar, announced yesterday it had raised $60 million led by Andreessen Horowitz. Will SideCar try to match that? “We’re talking to investors,” Paul said.

Meanwhile, while Lyft drivers famously adorn their cars with giant fuzzy pink mustaches, SideCar last week started handing out branded sleeves for its drivers to put on their rear-view mirrors so that passengers can more easily find their rides. “We call them ‘mirror socks,’ or ‘mox’ for short,” Paul said.

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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google