Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Despite Controversy in Austin and Philly, Ride-Sharing Service SideCar Expands to Boston, Brooklyn and Chicago

SideCar, the peer-to-peer ride-sharing service that has courted controversy in its recent launches, is adding three more cities today. Its last two launches earned a car-impounding sting, a lawsuit and 20,000 free rides requested, so this should be exciting.

The company connects riders and drivers through its smartphone apps, with payment in “gifts” rather than fares.

It is launching weekend service in Boston, Brooklyn and Chicago. Previously, the company started operations in San Francisco, then expanded to Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Austin.

But those last two cities didn’t go too smoothly. In Philadelphia, local authorities conducted a sting and impounded the cars of SideCar drivers.

In Austin, the transportation authority declared ride-sharing was illegal, so SideCar filed a lawsuit against the city a week ago, and made all rides free for now.

Free rides were an easy non-sell during SXSW, with more than 20,000 requested during the Interactive (a.k.a. technology) portion of the festival. (Obviously, not all of those were fulfilled. But such is the nature of the system.)

SideCar spokeswoman Margaret Ryan said of the Austin situation via email, “We’ve since had productive meetings with city officials, many of which are pro-rideshare. We’re hoping to have resolution so we can go back to operating as usual soon.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco-based SideCar is still in discussions with regulators in its home market, where competitors Uber and Lyft have already settled with the California Public Utilities Commission, but SideCar had resisted terms that limited an open interpretation of ride-sharing.

In Boston, Brooklyn and Chicago, SideCar will be available from 5 pm to 3 am on weekend nights until it reaches critical mass.

The company had also said last month that it was recruiting drivers in Washington, D.C., for launch this year.

SideCar raised $10 million in Series A funding last year from investors including Lightspeed Venture Partners and Google Ventures.

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