There were quite a few things related to sustainable transport at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but one that I particularly liked was JoinUp, a taxi-sharing service from Spain. It’s based on using smartphones (Android and iOS) to enable potential taxi users to share a ride. It has all the same ‘trust architecture’ that you’d expect, including social feedback on both drivers and other ride-sharers. It’s possible for women sharers to specify that they’d only share with another woman (though exactly how they’d avoid real creeps creating a female identity is not entirely clear to me). The service is free to users – taxi drivers pay 1 Euro to the company for each trip arranged via the service.
Taxi companies in Barcelona (200 cars) and Madrid (250 cars) are already signed up. Informal taxi-sharing has existed for a long time, especially in developing countries – in more mature and affluent settings the taxi drivers have not been too keen, perhaps because it seems to them that they are getting only one fare when two were available.
That’s not a barrier in present-day Spain; here it’s more a matter of getting half a fare rather than none at all. It’s worth noting that there seems to be a real culture of innovation in sharing-based services in Spain at the moment; no doubt this is due to the dire economic climate, but it is great that it’s driving some clever ideas rather than just a race to the bottom.