New competition in D.C. among car, ride sharing apps

by Sean Riley


WJLA

Innovative car and ride share businesses like Uber and Zipcar now have even more competition. Starting this week, two new transportation-related mobile apps entered the already competitive D.C. market.

On Wednesday, the app Split launches in Washington – created by a team of local young professionals, targeting fellow young professionals.

Using an algorithm, the app matches rideshare customers going the same direction and serves as a middleman to split the fare.

Split CEO Ario Keshani said, “And we're not just finding one person. We might find multiple people. There might be someone in the car before you get in and somebody still left in the car after you get out, with the idea of making the city more efficient.”

The co-founders said trips with Split cost about half the price of an equivalent ride with uberX or D.C. taxicab.

Split Director of Strategy Dan Winston said, “It's $2 [as a flat rate] plus $1 per mile. And we're not going to have surge pricing.”

Uber declined to comment.

Many Washingtonians, just learning about the new app, said they were intrigued.

“I would ride with a stranger. I've done slugging and I've gotten in cabs with other people and we've split fares. I would certainly do that,” said Imani Ellis.

But some are less willing to share a ride with strangers. “What about the security aspect of it,” asked Mohammed Cheema.

Eventually, the team plans to expand Districtwide and to other cities. For now, service is limited to downtown D.C. and adjacent neighborhoods, with 20 drivers hired so far.

Tuesday was Split driver Abede Kebebe’s first day on the job, after spending the past 17 years as a D.C. taxi driver.

“This is the future. I think this is something great,” he said.

A similar app, Bridj, also launched this Spring in Washington. Like Split, it matches riders going the same direction and transports them using small buses.

Meanwhile, a new car sharing app just launched Monday in D.C. Think of it as an Airbnb for cars.

GetAround, based in San Francisco, allows car owners to rent their vehicles to total strangers.

A customer can unlock her rental via the GetAround mobile app. Rates range from $5 to $9 an hour, with the app collecting 40%.

Driver Megan Johnson doesn’t have her own car. She said, “Yeah. I would do it. I wouldn't have a problem with that.”

Beth Lucas said she’s saving for her child’s graduation fund and liked the idea of extra income. But she expressed worry about accidents. “I would be concerned about insurance,” she said.

Fellow driver David Tong was also skeptical about letting strangers use his car or paying strangers to use their cars. “It's awkward,” he said. “I don't really trust it. I wouldn’t use it.”

GetAround said it screens all drivers and every rental is insured up to $1 million. Smoking is banned in all rentals and certain cars are deemed pet-friendly.

App co-founder Jessica Scorpio said, “There's also a rating review system so owners and renters can leave feedback and decide if they want to continue sharing with those folks.”

So far, in D.C., Scorpio said GetAround has signed up 4,000 members and 40 cars.

Asked for reaction to the new competition locally, Zipcar D.C. General Manager Scott Hall sent a statement.

“Zipcar and GetAround are two very different car sharing models. Zipcar owns an updated, well-maintained fleet of vehicles which are available for members to reserve 24/7,” the statement said. “Gas, insurance, parking and 180 miles per day are included in our network of over 10,000 vehicles worldwide. Zipcar provides ‘wheels when you want them’ without the hassles and costs of vehicle ownership.”