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Sci Tech    H4'ed 12/20/13

Will "Ridesharing" Kill Ridesharing?

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How could this be affecting ridesharing? The extrinsic motivation of payment is likely to erode the intrinsic motivation of ridesharing for its own sake. On the one hand, this could attract willing drivers away from traditional ridesharing services like RideJoy, to paying services like Lyft or Uber. But even more seriously, as the blood donation example shows, the "crowding out" effect payment can transform the image and meaning of ridesharing itself. Payment transforms a fun activity done on its own merit into a job done for pay. This could actually decrease the number of drivers willing to rideshare .

And just maybe, this helps explain the differing fortunes of ridesharing in the US and Europe. It's not that Americans don't like sharing rides, or don't care about the environment. It's that we let the profit motive get in the way of more substantial motivation, confusing the bloodless cost-benefit fantasies of economists with real human psychology.

To save real ridesharing, one of the first things we should do is insist on a clear distinction between ridesharing and for-profit services like taxis.. This will be a challenge, given that the confusion of these new taxi-like services with actual ridesharing has a new promotor in Peers, a faux-gressive, astroturfing public relations group whose powerful members are more like the "peers" of the British House of Lords, than a band of your and my equals. Propagandists of this sort will need to be resisted if we are to reclaim the meaning of "ridesharing" as a concept (saving the "sharing economy" concept in general, unfortunately, may already be a lost cause).

Will we be able to stop paid "ridesharing" from killing off the real ridesharing movement? For RideJoy, it's already too late.

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Anthony Kalamar is an independent scholar and writer on environmental and technology issues.

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