The time to pick a ridesharing app for your phone isn't when it's dark and cold, there aren't any cabs to be had and you realize you'd really like a ride home. The time to download one is well before you need it.
Ridesharing has become a popular — and controversial — alternative to traditional taxi services. On the face of it, it seems simple enough: The apps match people needing a lift with drivers who use their own personal vehicles to give rides. You create an account with a service through the app, then use it to request a pickup from your location. The apps also handle payment through your saved credit card. Currently, the top three contenders are Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.
Traditional taxi services are not ignoring the situation, of course. They are not only putting pressure on local governments to regulate or even ban ridesharing services (for example, in December 2014, prosecutors in South Korea indicted Travis Kalanick, Uber's CEO), but are also coming out with their own mobile apps. So we've tried out a couple of third-party apps — Curb and Way2ride — that represent a new crop of alternatives that associate themselves with existing car services.
Come along for the ride.
Given the number of always-changing factors involved — such as which drivers you happen to get, what city or town you're located in (services in Minneapolis or Atlanta may not be the same as those in Los Angeles or New York), what area in that city/town you need to leave from and get to, and what time you are planning to travel — it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to definitively declare which of these offers the best transportation service.
As a result, we've focused on the features of the apps themselves: how they work, what choices they provide, how intuitively those choices are presented, and how much information they give you about your driver and your ride.
To test the apps, I installed them on both an iPhone 4S and an iPad 2 — although there are no iPad-specific versions; the apps operate the same way on each device. (There are Android apps for each of these services as well.) I took two or three rides with each service, from both my quiet neighborhood in San Francisco and from relatively busy parts of town.
Availability:200+ cities/areas in 53 countries
Rates: Vary by city, type of ride, current demand
Uber is the oldest and probably the most famous (or infamous) of the rideshare services. Officially launched in 2010, it now offers rides in more than 200 cities worldwide, including more than 100 in the U.S.
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