Advances in Technology Boost Ride Sharing Worldwide

By: Albert McKeon| - Leave a comment


Not that long ago, ride sharing was a genuine curiosity. But almost overnight, services such as Uber and Lyft became so popular that it’s now almost counter-cultural to take a taxi.

This shift is highlighted by nearly a quarter of Americans who sold or traded their vehicles this past year, with 9 percent of them turning to ride hailing services as their primary way to get around, VentureBeat reports. Almost the same amount said they would also take that route in the upcoming year.

Meanwhile, an MIT study suggests 3,000 cars could meet 98 percent of the taxi demand in New York City if they were used exclusively for carpooling.

And increased interest in sharing transportation isn’t restricted to the U.S., either. Countries across the globe are also revving their engines for on-demand carpooling, viewing it as a viable way to curb congestion and increase employment.

Ride Sharing Becomes Universal

Bureaucratic regulations, fares and the aptitude of drivers will vary from country to country as Uber pursues its quest to become a major player in traffic-thick India, The New York Times explains. But the technological tools that allowed ride sharing to take off in the U.S. are readily available in most other countries. Basically, there are only three things needed to support a ride hailing service anywhere: GPS, a smartphone app and a payment system.

Drivers won’t be able to get there from here without the aid of geolocation. Wired notes that prospective cab drivers in London famously have to memorize the city’s maze of 25,000 streets to pass the required exam. In contrast, GPS allows ride-hailing service drivers to pick up and drive fares with limited knowledge of the terrain. Meanwhile, geolocation allows a service to track drivers and schedule rides through data analysis, ensuring no passenger is left behind.

Last year, Uber invested more than $500 million in mapping, and this year, the company unveiled its first proprietary navigation app for its drivers, The Verge reports. Ride hailing services expanding into new global markets likely can’t match Uber’s budget, but there are several affordable GPS navigation apps on the market that these companies’ drivers can rely on.

Smartphones and E-Payment Drive Commuting

The common denominator for drivers and passengers is a smartphone app. Drivers rely on an internal app to answer a fare’s call and receive directions, while passengers read text messages and push notifications from their external apps to learn if their ride request has been accepted and when the driver will arrive. Plus, even before fetching a ride, many passengers tap a social media app on their smartphones to first see if the service has poor reviews in their area.

Electronic payments have helped ride-hailing services accelerate into the mainstream, with cashless, smartphone-bearing passengers enjoying how a ride can be managed with only the use of a device. With e-payment systems available in most countries, there’s nothing preventing a service from accepting credit and debit cards.

Advancing Technology to Boost Ride Sharing

Other technologies can help companies in this space break away from the pack. For companies that want to control their own data, cloud computing offers a secure cloud infrastructure and the ability to coalesce and analyze the many streams of data that connect drivers and passengers.

In addition, advances in predictive software can provide even sharper insight on traffic conditions. This should benefit even the biggest players in the space, which have been criticized for making small mistakes like directing the driver to arrive on the side of the street opposite to where a passenger is waiting.

Self-driving cars may also play a role in the global ride sharing industry. After losing its permits in California, Uber has started picking up passengers in Arizona with self-driving cars, albeit with company engineers in the front seats for safety, The Verge explains.

As long as the technology is available and political and economic conditions are ripe, hailing a shared vehicle is on its way to becoming second-nature for consumers throughout the world.

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About The Author

Albert McKeon

Freelance Writer

Albert McKeon covers technology, health, business, politics and entertainment. He previously worked as a newspaper reporter for 16 years on the staffs of The Telegraph (N.H.) and Boston Herald, winning the New England Press Association’s Journalist of the Year award and other honors. He now writes as a freelancer for several magazines and news outlets, and creates content for organizations such as Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston College.

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