Sidecar has its moment

Here’s how Sidecar took the lead in the carpool race

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It’s been four months since Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar officially launched their carpool features. And although all three rideshare companies have marketed their new carpool feature to the masses, one of them is pulling ahead: Sidecar.

It has expanded its carpool option to the most cities and seen record-breaking use in the process. The company trotted out a host of statistics and facts during a recent interview with me. The overall picture was clear: Sidecar’s carpooling feature is now its main source of growth, and a welcome injection.

Sidecar’s Shared Rides feature is now available in five cities, compared to three for both Lyft and Uber. In the cities where it launched the feature, 40 percent of the rides Sidecar offers are carpool. Uber wouldn’t disclose its percentage of UberPool rides. Lyft told me that as of a few months ago, 30 percent of its rides in San Francisco were Lyft Line, but it declined to share more up-to-date figures or the percentages of other cities.

It’s worth noting that since Lyft does a higher volume of rides than Sidecar, 30 percent of its total is likely far greater in absolute number of rides than 40 percent of Sidecar’s total.

For those who don’t track every change in the transportation industry: This carpooling option is different from these companies’ original “ridesharing” services. Instead of traveling alone with a driver (as with original ridesharing), in carpooling you get matched with another passenger going the same direction, making it cheaper to get across town than if you were traveling solo.

You might be surprised to hear that Sidecar has expanded its carpooling feature more quickly than Uber or Lyft. After all, it’s the company which I have previously referred to as the forgotten stepsister of ridesharing. It’s the smallest, with far less passengers and far less venture capital funding ($35 million) than Uber ($3.3 billion) and Lyft ($332.5 million).

But the company’s smaller size may actually be the reason for its fast carpool expansion. It has been able to focus its resources on the carpooling part of the business, making it a priority above all else. The company raised its latest round, a comparably paltry $15 million, solely on the premise of expanding Shared Rides.

Since introducing Shared Rides, Sidecar’s business has grown in multiples. It had a record week last week, with rides up 60 percent from the average prior weeks, despite the fact that there wasn’t a holiday like New Years or Halloween to propel the growth. The number of rides it offered in Chicago increased 10 times since it launched Shared Rides there in early November.

Contrary to outward appearances, Sidecar was first to market with the carpool feature, giving it a head start on Uber and Lyft. The media narrative around carpooling originally went: Lyft was the creatorUber upstaged Lyft’s big launch with a preemptive release, and Sidecar belatedly chased the pack.

But as this June article shows, Sidecar had actually been doing shared rides months before its competitors — it just hadn’t made much fanfare announcing it. The company claims it started testing Shared Rides in May. It had months of time to hone its operations, and as Uber and Lyft were just launching their SF markets, Sidecar had already tried out its feature with 13,000 passengers.

It has by no means won that war though. Sidecar may have gotten a head start, but its rivals are still far better funded. All it takes is Lyft or Uber placing a priority on carpooling — making it their main raison d’être — for them to take over.

6 Responses to “Here’s how Sidecar took the lead in the carpool race”

  1. Let’s also mention that from a climate change perspective, carpooling is much more effective than having a driver ferry around one person at a time (in which case the climate benefit is basically nil). Good job Sidecar.

  2. Sidecar can take the lead even more so, but regardless of what is written, or more so, not written, Sidecar is still the major underdog and really needs some help with marketing, press (PR), and promotional activity. We hope to fast track that process and pick up the speed on Sidecar’s race to the finish line (puns not intended) before it is too late. As much as this is still a young industry, as the time clicks by, it is maturing more and more. Let’s take this strong company with a great App (both on Rider and Driver side) and regardless of where they are right now, let’s join together and help make Sidecar the Ridesharing tool of 2015! Drive Sidecar and get your $15 discount by joining and entering code “EVENTCITY”.

  3. Haters on gonna hate, but the reality is that Sidecar is the best kept secret in ridesharing. First, if you click on the driver photos you can review their ratings before you request them. That matters to me. I don’t want to be picked up by an inexperienced or poorly rated driver. Second, if you click the star on the rating screen at the end of the ride, you can favorite your driver. After riding several months now, I ride with drivers who I know already more than I drive with ones whom I’ve never met. Every rideshare has shared rides now.. but things like this are important to me. I choose Sidecar every time I go out.