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Let’s start with a brief history of ride-hailing aka ride sharing. Ride-hailing is basically a modern day term for hailing a cab, albeit it via a phone or computer. Taxis as a form of transport have been around since the 17th century when horse drawn carriages would take members of the high society in England and France from their palaces to their fancy balls and back. The first documented public hackney coach service for hire was in London in 1605. So ride-hailing isn’t really anything new at all. It’s just the way you hail.
Fast forward a few hundred years and the yellow taxis became the color and brand associated with this mode of transport over the last century. Black cars and limousines also came onto the scene to provide higher end modes of taxi services. But with the development and mass adoption of smartphone technology a new transportation era has dawned.
In 2010 Uber first launched their ride-hailing business aimed at making it easier to find a limousine. Two years later Lyft started a business aimed at hitchhikers. And so began what has become a multi-billion dollar market with dozens of companies around the world now offering what are called ride-hailing services.
At first the established taxis fought hard (and around the world many still are) to stop this new trend but many taxi companies now offer the same ride-hailing technology to enable their customers and drivers to deliver a similar experience. You may have heard this referred to as the ride-hailing revolution and it is true in many senses of the word – mass adoption, social engagement, protests over change and even clashes as ride-hailing has disrupted a four hundred year old industry.
To show you how quickly things have changed, 15% of Americans have already used a ride-hailing service in just seven years since it began.
So what are the ride-hailing basics?
Let’s start with a broad definition of ride-sharing. Many people get confused between the difference of ride-sharing and ride-hailing. Well, to be honest there isn’t much of one! Uber and Lyft will refer to themselves as both ride-sharing and ride-hailing companies. Ride-sharing is basically the over-arching term that includes all of the below. Ride-sharing can be just you selecting a car via your smartphone, or can include you deciding to ride-pool (more on that later) with another person. So ride-sharing is basically any and all ways of you getting from A-B!
Ride-hailing is a little more specific but still encompasses a range of companies and services, including taxis, car services and ride-hailing specific services. The concept of ride-hailing is that a customer hires a driver to take them exactly where they need to go, just as you would by hailing a taxi from the street, calling up a car service on the phone, or virtually hailing a car and driver from an app. Think of ride-hailing as putting your virtual arm out for a taxi. Your virtual arm is your smartphone or computer, the taxi is a taxi or any car that is set up in the system and ride-hailing technology gives the consumer many more benefits. In some places you really can ride-hail a horse for example.
So why is ride-hailing so great?
Let’s start from the passenger experience. Although you can use your computer or even home audio device (like Amazon’s Echo) to order these services, over 90% do so via a smartphone. You enter your pick-up point and destination and the ride-hailing company will show you on a map where available cars are, what the pickup ETA is and a rough estimate of the cost of the trip. Many will give you a choice of car type/size with prices varying. None of that existed when you put your hand out on the street to take a taxi. It gives you, the consumer, far more flexibility as you can see when your pick up will arrive, you know how much you’re likely to spend and even what type of car you will get.
Once you are in the car, you can follow the route via the ride-hailing app to make sure the driver is taking you via the optimal route. If you got a car for a friend and want to make sure they get to their destination you can track them via your phone too. I’ve done that many times when putting my mother in the car to the airport for example.
Tipping is another big area where many people prefer to use ride-hailing apps. Whereas for taxis riders would often have to stress about how much to tip then and there, many ride hailing apps do not require any tipping or if they do have tipping options, most have the ability after the ride is over so you can decide if and how much to tip from the comfort of your destination.
Driver ratings is yet another great feature of ride-hailing. You can share your experiences and rate the good the bad and the ugly, making ride-hailing safer and more enjoyable for everyone.
The other unique thing about ride-hailing is the payment is usually seamless. You will have already set up payment options with the ride-hailing company and so when you arrive you simply get out and get on with your life. No fumbling for cash, or trying to swipe credit cards, or worse still, realizing you left your wallet at home! With ride-hailing you can travel all over the country without ever needing a wallet.
There is no doubt ride-hailing has made transportation easier. It’s global growth to become a $11billion market so quickly is testament to that fact.
Ride Hailing Driver Benefits
From the driver point of view – many ride-hailing companies can offer their drivers a lot of flexibility. Most of the time, unlike traditional yellow taxis, the drivers supply their own cars. Some ride-hailing companies have started offering their drivers subsidized or help with purchasing a vehicle too. Once a driver has been accepted and set up with the company’s app, the driver can pick which hours he or she works. You will often find a ride-hailing driver has another job or drives for a few hours each week for extra money. I’ve met IT recruitment consultants, lawyers and farmers all of whom also drive ride-hailing cars on the side. For many it’s a great way of being social and meeting new people.
For drivers there is also the idea of safety and better protection. They know who they are picking up, can chose whether to not to take a certain ride (a traditional taxis would have no idea where you are going when you hail it on the street) and drivers can rate the customer just like the customer can rate the driver.
So what is Ride-Pooling then?
Hot off the tails of ride-sharing, came the concept of ride-pooling. The idea first developed in 2014. Ride pooling is basically another subset of ride-sharing. Think about it as sharing your journey with another passenger. Some “ride-sharing purists” will even argue that ride pooling is more of a social mission helping mobility, environmental protection and cost savings. Most ride-pooling services are localized, i.e. if you’re travelling a few miles, you can share the cost with someone else who happens to be en route and going the same direction. But there are other ride-pooling services that help connect users going longer distances – think of the old analogy of a hitchhiker looking for a ride.
Where is ride-hailing taking us?
At the end of the day the fundamentals of getting a taxi service to take you somewhere or hitch a ride with someone have not changed. It’s the the clever utilization of technology and the fact nearly everyone has a smart phone now that has enabled this concept to spread so quickly. It has become easier, safer and far more efficient for many people to use these services than drive themselves. Certainly the landscape has changed more in the last seven years than it has in the last six hundred. But change is inevitable and more fundamental change is just around the corner. In New York City, Uber and Lyft are set to have more rides combined than traditional taxis and by 2018 combined these will account for over one million rides EVERY DAY. Hundreds of thousands of ride-hailing apps are downloaded each day too with no sign of slowing down.
The Power of Bellhop
Amid this flurry of new ride-hailing apps consumers face a mounting challenge of both staying up to date with the latest options and also how to compare which ones are actually the best.
And that’s where Bellhop comes in. Bellhop consolidates the major ride-hailing apps into one. So you no longer need dozens of apps on your phone to get the optimal ride. Bellhop enables you to compare by cost, pick up time and other variables to get the ride that suits you. It’s a very simple concept but especially in countries or even states that have localized ride-hailing apps, Bellhop makes your travel life so much easier. There is no need to download multiple apps and sign up for each with your credit card. It’s about one seamless process to make your life easier and to give you the power of choice. During Bellhop’s Beta testing, our users showed on average 20% savings per ride.
With so many companies now investing in self driving technologies, it won’t be long before you can book a driverless car to take you to your destination. There are many arguments for and against that but there is no doubt it will happen. One thing is for sure though – the conversation may not be as entertaining.