Seeking to stand out in a crowded field of questionably differentiable ride-sharing companies, Ridejoy will release digital identification verification for driver’s licenses and passports on Tuesday. They will also offer optional background checks and re-launch BurningManRides.com.
“Safety is the biggest concern people have about ridesharing and collaborative consumption in general, and seeing that someone’s ID is on file and matched with the other info we have is a huge reassurance,” co-founder Kalvin Wang tells us.
Ridejoy’s current safety procedures rely mainly on users’ vetting of each other through social networks, using Facebook authentication, user reviews and references and a safety checklist sent to users.
Starting Tuesday, users can put their driver’s license or passport in front of a webcam; Ridejoy will then check the identification information against the information the user has provided when joining Ridejoy. Wang said most users–he estimated 80%–sign up for the service by connecting through Facebook.
Ridejoy’s main competitor, Zimride, also uses Facebook Connect as well as testimonials and a number of other safety features; however, they do not verify users’ drivers’ licenses or passports. This could give Ridejoy an edge in the market, although adopting a verification system would not be difficult for Zimride. Ridejoy tells us they also try to stand out by being easy to use and developing a community–but users can only see this once they join the site.
Wang explained that users’ biggest concerns are about safety. While Ridejoy’s safety checklist already tells users to take photos of their companions’ identification, users complained that it was annoying and could be awkward to do.
Citing statistics that there are 2.3 billion long-distance trips every year and 76% of them are single-occupancy vehicles, Wang and co-founder Jason Shen hope these features allow Ridejoy to attract a larger audience.
“You have massive amount of what’s essentially inventory and we just need to make it convenient and safe,” Wang said.
“This idea of sharing resources is still just getting off the ground,” Shen added. “Things like this safety feature are the kinds of things that will really open up ridesharing for everybody.”
Wang said the verification would work for IDs from dozens of countries from five continents. The company already includes rides to and from Vancouver, Canada, and Wang said they “definitely plan to expand to other parts of the country later this year.”
On Tuesday, the company is also re-launching BurningManRides.com, Ridejoy’s original site. Wang went to Burning Man in 2010 when they were getting ready to launch Ridejoy and they decided to launch a “bare-bones, Burning Man-specific” site. They launched in early August, 2011 for the late August festival and saw 1,600 rides get posted as well as five plane rides. Wang and Shen took a plane ride back with a man they described as “a 55-year old Indiana Jones.”
I wonder if “The Janky Barge crew” will be offering rides this year.
Finally, the founders told us Ridejoy has three thousand active rides listed at any given time, up from just a thousand earlier this year; they will be launching a mobile app later this summer.
(Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Robert Scales)