BlaBlaCar unveils BlaBlaLines, a new app for daily commutes

French startup BlaBlaCar is launching a brand new app and service today. Named BlaBlaLines, this new app is all about short distance carpooling and daily commutes so that you can leave your car at home.

BlaBlaCar is going to launch this new service progressively. The app will only be available on Android at first, and it’ll only work between a handful of French cities — between Reims and Châlons-en-Champagne, and between Toulouse and Mountauban. These are popular routes for commuters of around 50 kilometers. Think about it as a sort of minimal viable product.

There are a few issues worth mentioning when it comes to carpooling. Drivers don’t want to waste time waiting for riders. Similarly, you don’t want to be waiting at work for a couple of hours because your driver still has work to do. BlaBlaCar thinks it can fix all those pain points.

When I talked with BlaBlaCar co-founder Frédéric Mazzella, he compared it to a subway or bus line. Just like taking the subway, you want to be able to leave whenever you want, you want to have frequent trains and you need to go to the subway stop.

Let’s say you live in one city and work in another. You tell BlaBlaCar that you’re regularly driving between these two cities. It doesn’t mean that you’ll have to accept riders every day, but it’ll make it easier for future rides.

For passengers, you can book a ride in a few taps using the app. The app automatically creates a line and assigns a stop (just like a bus stop), and you’ll have to wait for your ride over there. Waze’s carpooling service is a bit different as drivers have to pick up other users at home, which is a waste of time because people tend to be late if they’re waiting at home.

When you request a ride, the driver receives a push notification. Drivers have to accept rides in the BlaBlaLines app. Interestingly, it seems like you have to pay in cash for your rides.

“Today, we don’t take any cut,” Mazzella said. “Our goal is to get users and tractions first.” During today’s presentation, the company showed an example between Toulouse and Mountauban. According to the images, a typical ride could cost €6 (or $6.55).

There are multiple options for the business model for this new service. BlaBlaCar could work with companies so that they help their employees when it comes to their daily commutes. I could also see cities contributing as BlaBlaLines is going to save money when it comes to public transportation investment. Mazzella said that cities could help promote the app.

BlaBlaLines is a brand new app and works only on mobile. You have to create a new user account to use the service. This is the first time BlaBlaCar is branching out its service with another app. BlaBlaCar is focusing on making BlaBlaLines as frictionless as possible, automatically assigning stops and matching drivers with riders. This is a big departure from BlaBlaCar’s service as the company’s main service can be a bit cumbersome to list a ride as a driver or find a ride as a rider.

The company is going to iterate on BlaBlaLines, potentially adding in-app payments before the end of the year. You’ll be able to synchronize your BlaBlaCar profile with your BlaBlaLines profile at some point too. In 2018, BlaBlaCar is going to expand BlaBlaLines to the entire country of France.

BlaBlaCar now has 40 million users and handles 12 million rides per quarter. The French startup is the global leader for long-distance ridesharing.

The company has also been facing growing pains. It has been focusing on new markets, such as Russia, Eastern Europe and Brazil, and launching new products to make BlaBlaCar more useful. BlaBlaLines is a good example of this new strategy.

BlaBlaLines could turn BlaBlaCar into a service with a lot of recurring transactions. It’s a bit more complicated to set up a service like BlaBlaLines as you need to have a big community. But it’s a promising service given BlaBlaCar’s ubiquity in France.

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