A cross between a chauffeur-driven tourist vehicle and a car-pooling arrangement, the new Hitch service enables several people to share their journey in order to reduce the cost.

Hitch App-Based Ride Service a Cross between Uber and BlaBlaCar

Where Uber meets BlaBlaCar – that’s Hitch, a new ‘ride-sharing’ service launched in early June on the streets of San Francisco. The idea is to take several paying passengers at the same time in order to reduce the fare. “If two people find themselves in the same area and want to go to the same place, they can share the same car,” explains Snir Kodesh, co-founder and General Manager of the startup. To call up the service you need a mobile app, which for the moment is available only on iOS devices. Hitch is very similar to its competitors in that you use a smartphone app to order a car to pick you up, indicating your destination. The platform software tries to match your order with those of other passengers in the neighbourhood. If a number of requests correspond, they are sent to the same driver, who will pick up a maximum of three separate passengers, four if they comprise an existing group.

Cheaper but longer

The Hitch system means that fares can work out 50% lower than for UberX and Lyft, the two main vehicle-with-driver services in San Francisco. On the other hand, the journey time will probably be a bit longer. However, Kodesh assures us that they “try to limit the number of detours.” The startup founders claim that they are bridging a gap in the current range of transport offers between the city’s buses – cheap but slow – and taxis or vehicles with private drivers – fast but expensive. This compromise obviously appeals to Hitch’s customers, who are able to save time or save money. “40% of our passengers come back and use our service the following week,” says the entrepreneur. Hitch also highlights the social side of its service: customers sharing a journey are given access to the profiles and interests of other passengers on Facebook or other social networks. “That gives them something to talk about,” Kodesh underlines.

Rush hour and specific locations

Drivers, especially those using their own vehicles, also have plenty to gain from the system. The more passengers they take in their car, the higher their remuneration. If a driver takes two passengers s/he will earn as much as drivers for the rival services. For a third passenger, the driver will receive 50% extra on the fare. For the moment, Hitch does not take any commission. However, the startup does not rule out the idea of taking a 20% commission in the near future, as its competitors do. To ensure long term viability the company needs to avoid one-passenger journeys as much as possible. For this reason the service is only available during the rush hour commute when lots of people are trying to get home or to a leisure venue and at the moment does not serve all the city’s neighbourhoods. Kodesh hopes to widen coverage in the next few months, as more regular customers come on board. He also intends to extend the service to Los Angeles, and then to other US cities next year.

By Jérôme Marin