Car sharing services have been around for a while now, but the next-generation of these services have started to take off, with a number of them relying on users owning an iPhone or at least having Internet access. RelayRides is one of the more interesting examples, and it is has the backing of Google Ventures. Car owners sign-up to let renters use their vehicle, giving renters access to a wide variety of rides. Renters book their preferred ride from the available options and reserve it. They meet up with the owner to pick up the keys and then they hit the road with a vehicle suitable for their needs at the agreed hourly rate.
Another similar service is Getaround that centers on an iPhone app. The users who sign up get to see pictures of the vehicle they want to use along with the fees. Using the push notification features of the iPhone, users can be alerted to the availability of a car, save favorites as well as use their phone to lock and unlock a car that has been installed with the Getaround Carkit. The makers claim that sharing cars this way helps to take up to ten cars off the road for each car hired. Like RelayRides, insurance costs are covered in the hourly rate.
For car owners who want to make a bit of extra cash without losing sight of their pride and joy might want to consider Zimride. Again, the service uses an iPhone app to join drivers with users who are willing to pay to hitch a ride somewhere. They company has also just launched an experimental app Lyft, only available by invite currently, that lets prospective drivers and riders even look at each others Facebook profiles before they hook up for the journey. Trips are paid for through the app with no cash exchanged between the parties. Zimride also vets the drivers to help give its riders peace of mind.
Other interesting alternative transport services in San Francisco include Ridepal, which offers users a bus service complete with mobile Wi-Fi to help keep them productive while on the way into the office. Scoot Networks offers scooters for hire, which also have an iPhone mount so users can navigate from A to B using the device's in-built GPS. So and why has San Francisco managed to become a hub of alternative transport startups?
According to GigaOM, the city is very much a hub for tech startups in general. A number of the alternative transport services have also linked in with these companies to get their services off the ground. Further, there is a gap in the public transport system in San Francisco that has helped to give these alternative transport startups a shot. Unlike in New York, where a taxi is often at hand, San Francisco taxi services are less freely accessible. Also parking in the city can be quite expensive. The city of San Francisco is also quite supportive of these types of initiatives, helping to put the city on the road to the future of alternative transport solutions.