Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Carpooling is based on the insight that we have all those cars zooming around out there going everywhere 24/7, most with just one occupant. The unused capacity is mind-boggling. What to do? Carpooling is starting to go high tech, facilitated by use of computers, GPS devices, cellphones and the internet. Both free and commercial applications have popped up in Europe and the West Coast of the US. Newly jacked-up gas prices and the possibilitiy of supply line problems following Katrina may make it more popular in a lot of communities soon.

The high tech solution is a classic exchange. A database is accessed on the web by a limited membership group. Participants post and confirm "lift offers" and "lift requests", then users just confirm their trades and meet up on the parking lot. Basic services could be offered on a daily basis. It could get more formal of course. The addition of cellphones and GPS devices could aid in scheduling lifts ever closer to real-time. Setting one of these up would be a great service for IT and web development shops to offer their companies. The software essentials are close at hand, and we could look like the heroes we really are.

Some links:

From Wikipedia:

* As most cars are designed for 5 people but only occupied by 1, car pooling has great potential improve the capacity of congested traffic corridors in cities, with minimal investment in infrastructure.

* Higher occupancy rates also can reduce consumption of oil thereby reducing corresponding political and economic risks, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce common pollution, and save considerable expenses from gasoline, oil, tires, auto depreciation, tolls, parking, and in some cases insurance.

* Carpools may provide social connections in an increasingly disconnected society


* Drivers carry the additional burden of potential legal action from passengers in case of an accident.

* Car pooling combines the disadvantages of public transport (lack of privacy, fixed timetables) with the disadvantages of the automobile (low safety, high fuel consumption, high cost of labour). Well designed, dedicated BRT systems have proven a faster and cheaper alternative to car pooling in big cities.

Others offer a tool for carpooling using GPS and a commercial DB:

Free carpool tools and DB:

...and for group set up:

Here's a commercial service that uses cellphone technology to perform real-time, "dynamic" pooling:

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