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View Count: 36 |  Publish Date: February 20, 2014
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Sidecar's new road map focuses on filters

San Franciscos Sidecar is trying to sideswipe smartphone-ride leaders Uber and Lyft.
The company Wednesday unveiled a business model that will let passengers shop for rides by viewing information on driver ratings, type of cars, pricing and current location. Drivers will be able to set their own prices and tweak their profiles with new photos to compete for riders.
The new marketplace is a long-term vision to really change the game so riders have a choice and drivers have more control of their experience, said Sunil Paul, Sidecar co-founder and CEO.
Sidecar also said it received $10 million from a group of investors led by Union Square Ventures, with Correlation Ventures, Avalon Ventures and SoftBank Capital also on board. The company has now raised more than $20 million.
All the new transportation networking company services let riders use a smartphone app to summon a car, usually driven by a freelance driver in his or her own car.
But Sidecar has long touted its distinction as the only ride service to show the trip cost before a passenger even gets in a car. Thats possible because riders provide their destinations in advance.
Under Sidecars new plan, passengers can also view all kinds of driver criteria.
In Chicago where weve been testing it, theres a guy who plays audiobooks and is currently playing Harry Potter, Paul said. There are people who serve cupcakes; drivers who give away free rides occasionally.
In Los Angeles, the other market where Sidecar tested the model, drivers with upscale vehicles like Mercedes and BMWs (who can charge a premium for those cars) found that they were getting more date rides, as opposed to run-of-the-mill doing errands, he said.
All the smartphone-enabled ride services refer to themselves as ride-sharing companies. Critics have said thats inaccurate since they provide paid rides from drivers who go where a passenger dictates.
But Sidecars new approach will enable it to more closely approximate ride sharing.
Increasingly we see drivers who use this in more of a carpool mode, Paul said. They can set up filters so they can pick up people on their way to somewhere they were already going.
If Im already driving from the Marina to South of Market, for instance, I can set up my filters so I make just enough to cover my parking.
Uber and its low-cost UberX service have dominated the ride service companies, leading some to dismiss Sidecar as an also-ran.
But Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson, who is joining the Sidecar board, said Sidecar provides something unique and personal, while Uber resembles Amazon, which offers the lowest price, quick delivery and confidence, he wrote in a blog post.
Uber is efficient and Sidecar is personal, he wrote. And we believe there is room for both of them to build big businesses in mobile transportation.
Union Square also invested $30 million in Hailo, a smartphone taxi-hailing app thats attracting riders in Europe and on the East Coast.
Sidecar just passed the two-year anniversary of its first ride, and has now provided more than 1 million rides, Paul said.
In the Bay Area, it operates in San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland. The company also operates in Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Boston.
Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: csaid@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @csaid

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Time: 2:27  |  News Code: 379299  |  Site: San Francisco Chronicle
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