The first time I ever wrote about carpooling service Comuto was when Iceland’s unpronounceable volcano first errupted in Sping of 2010 (at least this last volcano that errupted in May had an almost pronounceable name). At a time when most of Northern Europe was freaking out – with canceled flights and sold-out trains leaving travelers with little or no hope – Comuto stepped up and saw a massive surge in the use of their carpooling platform; stranded travelers realized that their next best option was to catch a ride in a stranger’s car rather than wait for space to free-up on trains and planes.
Comuto’s platform – which had previously been available in France and Spain – recently launched in the UK under the name Blablacar. The company blog explains that this name is meant to reflect chatty (but not annoying) passengers – but so far, the team has noticed that the average UK driver prefers to carry fewer passengers than their Spanish or French counterparts. Thus, hopefully the name will help inspire British drivers to fill up their cars with more people.
Blablacar is in many ways very similar to Airbnb – the famous YCombinator-born company that has been distrupting the hotel industry and closing “mega rounds” of funding. And while some people may turn to these alternative accomodation and travel platforms for social or economic purposes, Blablacar also boasts a more environmentally-friendly option for long-distance commuting. According to the team, the carpoolers that have used the platform have saved over 200K tons of CO2.
Blablacar – which received a €1.25 million investment from ISAI last year – announced in April that it had officially passed the 1 million user mark. Since then, the user base has grown by 150K, with some 300K travelers using the platform to travel each month (the equivalent of 500 to 600 full TGV trains).
Needless to say, Blablacar will hopefully provide a very simple solution next time an Icelandic volcano decides to unleash fury on Europe.