Bet your mother and teachers told you never to take a ride from a stranger. Well, the Washington State Department of Transportation will pay you to commute with someone you don’t know.
The goal of this new high-tech carpooling pilot project is to determine if “real-time ridesharing will fill empty seats in cars and make transportation more affordable and efficient,” says Brian Lagerberg, WSDOT's Public Transportation Division acting director.
The 6-month project will also determine if drivers are more willing to share the ride if there is compensation. Drivers won’t actually be paid; they will earn credits toward gas cards of $1 for the first mile and $.20 for each additional mile.
The project will initially address commuters over the Washington 520 floating bridge near Seattle, which will begin charging tolls this spring.
Participating commuters must have cell phones with Internet access. According to KOMONews.com, the WSDOT is working with Avego, an Irish company, to match drivers with riders via free apps for iPhones and phones with Windows 7.
Unlike older versions of carpools, where drivers know ahead of time who will be riding with them, this program matches drivers with riders they may not know on an as-needed basis.
Each day, Avego’s technology will give drivers a pop-up window showing where to pick up a passenger, the “distance rating” of the passenger, where they want to be dropped off, and how much credit the driver will get from the trip, not including the sharing of the forthcoming toll.
A promotional video on go520.org shows drivers and potential passengers how this process will work. “Turn your car into a bus and offer your empty seats to potential riders along your route," it touts.
No word if future apps will give pop-up “profiles” of the riders, or if riders can blog about the different drivers online.