May 2008

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Whether it ultimately works or not, it's still a awesome, inventive, ass-kissingly brilliant Idea. It's the essence of conservation, and as such WILL someday happen, I'[m sure. Just like - the book-swapping club where you can get books you can't afford; where your junk books become someone else's treasure.


Global Warming is a theory. Kind of like evolution. Interesting idea, no proof to back it up. So hop in your cars & drive folks, you're not doing the planet any harm.

Matt Parkins

One good addition would be that both parties give a score for the other for various categories which could then be tallied and stipulated as a search criteria:

ie, so a passenger would score a driver using categories like: a) clean/safe driver, b) clean/safe car, c) overall driver rating

and the driver would score the passenger using categories like: a) clean passenger, b) overall passenger rating

Something like that, so that, like ebay it would be almost self-policing.

Tom Kessler

All, we are developing exactly this. I had this same idea 5 years ago while on vacation in Argentina. Two years I finished working out the methodology and hired a development team. Hope to go beta this summer.


le Big MAC

It's a brilliant idea, so of course it won't work. The two main points:
For the 9 to 5ers, it will only be used by people on the lower rungs of the ladder. The upper executives in the SUVs with the Blackberry-sized stick up their ass don't want the commoners in their cars, so it will be used by people with no cars or cars that are run down and always in the shop. I worked in a late night call center in the deep suburbs and for a few of us, this kind of program definitely would be great.
For the early morning bar crawl, this would be more problematic. An idea is to have pre-screened, volunteer Designated Drivers (think the Guardian Angels NYC) with labeled, easy to find cars. MADD Housewives unite! Since club kids go where other clubbers are, it would be easy to establish pick up points. Most of the posters already pointed out the volunteers would be largely lonely guys looking to meet women with loose morals :p and would need to put towels over their car seats for the occasional "accident". The police should get behind this as a "clean up the streets of drunk drivers" program (less busy work for them to hunt real criminals), but there will be the usual whining from taxi owners about infringing on their turf.
NYC is already doing it, lalala. Are there other drivers in Manhattan, who aren't cabbies and trucks? In the boros undocumented workers use Dollar Vans and other rideshare programs. And we invented the subway, but people still love cabs because they're convenient and cozy. But an after hours rideshare? Hookups galore, come on!
I really enjoyed this thread, thanks everybody!!

Alternative Energy

Great Post by the way. This has got to be one of the most enginious ideas I have heard in a long while. I love thinkers like this. Here's another interesting and related resource I ran accross at


Here's another version: Don't leave home.

At home, I have a reasonably capable computer and a high-speed internet connection, and a cell phone I keep handy.

I have the same stuff at work, except instead of having my kitten in my lap, I have an annoying guy who drinks so much coffee that he can't stop fidgeting or jabbering.

To get to work, in addition to the drive, there's the long walk across the hellish parking lot to the cramped cubicle.

At home, I can get at my computer in 10 seconds after getting up, and my cats don't care if I shower or shave.

I can do the exact same work at home that I do at work.

Except that my boss wouldn't trust me to get the work done if he couldn't do a spot-inspection at random and breathe down my neck whenever he doesn't feel like doing anything that's actually productive.

If they allowed it, I could free up one of their cubicles, and their bean-counters could show them how not having an office occupied would be saving them lots of money in air conditioning that wouldn't be needed, given my lack of body heat in their office space.

But it still would never work, it makes too much sense.


Alot of you are missing the point.

He didn't say he had completely worked out the system. He didn't say it would be mandatory. He merely brought a good idea, whether it was his or not, to our attention.

And yes, this is well within the capability of computers. If you don't think so, then you probably aren't a software engineer. (I am).


I've said this in the past (as have most economists) - the main part of the solution to the energy problem is by raising fuel taxes. Period. The market will take care of the rest. Make it expensive enough, and people will 1) carpool more, 2) online and other businesses will spring up that provide the service you describe, 3) alternative energy sources for cars and everything else will be more attractive and will thrive, 4) the extra tax money is $ that stays in the country and does not enrich oil states, not to mention that it could be used to invest in anything (public transport, alternative energy, etc etc). I can go on, but you see my point. It's unfortunate that TAX has become a 4-letter word here, but it's the MOST EFFICIENT way to curb energy use and produce viable alternatives! I didn't say it would be easy - $5-$6/gallon gas will hurt at first, but hey, if this the "best/number 1 country in the world", i'm sure you can endure it. Besides, most of the rest of the world is already paying that!

p.s. Back to your point, this GPS/phone scheme you describe is certainly doable, but because gas prices are still relatively cheap compared to the rest of the world, there's no incentive for people to use such a service. The fuel tax will give them that incentive.


The NY Metro Area has these NuRide / Metropool ( folks advertising pretty heavily on the local radio. It appears to be much the same thing as you were suggesting.

Check it out.


Scott said: [Update: Would the people who are saying "it won't work" please talk to the people saying "it's already being done." Work it out and get back to me. I want to know if I am a crackpot or an idea stealer.]

Idea stealer. I don't know anything about already being done, but I know that this meme has been passing around for at least a year. It makes sense to me.

Here's an "early prototype" version of "casual car-pooling": There are various spots around the bay area where you can sit on a park bench and drivers know that people on that particular bench want rides, so pick them up.

Cool bonus for the driver: (a) carpool lane. (b) $5-off when crossing the bridge.

How can this NOT be a good deal?!

Think of it this way: "I'll give you $5 if you pick up that guy in the business suit reading the WSJ, over there..."


I had another Idea.
Let's just replace everyone's cars with Johnny Cab's!
Have the state own the cars, and just let everyone be driven around by Johnny cabs, that run off GPS. Accuracy to within 1 meter, shouldn't kill too many people.


People love their cars. Not everybody likes everybody. Most people don't like some people. Most people (especially United States of Americans, with their DHS and Terrorism Risk "Uh oh! Code Yellow/Orangish! I'm staying home today. Screw the Mall!" systems) are freaked out about letting someone they don't know in their car.

People like driving. Especially when there are other people on the road, because it gives us someone to race against. Who would give that up.

People don't like to wait. Haven't you ever noticed that everyone is in a hurry, constantly? They don't want to wait for someone to come along and pick them up. No way. They want to get in their car and go... be in control, under their own power, moving toward their destination.

There are lots of slobs out there, that I would rather rip off my leg then have to set foot in their car. I would say that most people are slobs. Then there are the ones that are not slobs. But damned if they're letting some stranger in their car. And what if the passenger is a slob? That won't go over well.

Plus, there will definitely be the issue of radio control. People have some bad taste in music.

I don't think there is a computer system that is intelligent enough to keep track of, let's say millions, of different people, their locations, what route they are on, where they want to go, what type of car they want to be picked up in, what their rating is, how many points they deserve, who they don't want to be in a car with etc etc. I don't think there is anything powerful enough to do this. This is like trying to track weather patterns. That's a lot of calculating that is constantly being updated, since everyone is moving all the time. The GPS satellites might fry with the overuse. That crazy astronaut chick will have to go back into space to reboot them.

However, if you can make it work, I'll buy your first share.


Few points.

Firstly... I think from the abundance of problems raised in the comments below, it's clear this idea will not and cannot work. None of the people saying 'this has been done' has quoted an area of any mentionable size - nothing approaching a fair town or city - and therefore none of the drawbacks to the system would have come into play yet. So... we can stop with that topic and move on, maybe?

Also -
"So you and I are both taking credit for merely having an *idea*.

G. H. Diel"

Believe it or not, Mr.Diel, two people can have the same idea at different times without having ever seen each other's work. I know it's a difficult concept for you to comprehend, but please trust me on this.

Next, I'd like to say a big thank you to Scott for that last line. It amused me at first, but seeing the pathetic outrage and offense in these comments at people who can't take a joke has made me laugh for the past half hour.

And finally - am I the only person in the entire English-speaking world who bothers to read, or at least skim-read, the comments before posting to try to avoid repeating myself? Jeez, it's only common courtesy...


Do you watch Doctor Who? This is extremely similar to the episode "Gridlock" that aired a while back.


sounds a lot like "advanced hitchhiking, which of course faded out some time ago.. maybe during the "Bundy age"


Cool idea. Another good way to avoid commuter pollution is stopping them from commuting to work if they don't need to. How many commuters could actually work from home ?


Wow... Rarely ever posted before, Scott, but this could be a killer idea. It needs to be developed as altruistically as possible, though. Sort of like Wikipedia. Start with the biggest cities with some of the worst congestion.

There'll be lots of people who will say "it'll never work". Just ignore them, and push forward with it. How can I help?

Joe Drinker

Honestly, in this part of the country, I can't even count on my phone to send and receive calls with any sort of consistency. I'm not sure I'd want to trust my livelihood and safety to it as well.

Lala Around

My solution to the polution & energy problem is quite simple:
* estimulate from the goverment the descentralization of work (not all concentrated in big cities).
* implement from the goverment a policy of "health traffic", wich will consist of distribution of bikes FREE to everyone who claims for it. Estimulate the use of them with tax advantages.

Other advantages: is cheaper, easy to implement and it is much healthier for people than using cars.

I really wonder why isn't it implemented yet.
Perhaps I'm not seeing something obvius...

Here in Buenos Aires we're facing a huge problem with the traffic and I really think it could be an very much appreciated alternative.


Good idea, myself and several other posters have had similar, but I think you took it a step or two further. Could pass on the fantastical claims, but whatever.

What's missing is a smooth execution of the idea, and a way to get enough people using the system to make it work.

You may have to get a local government involved in subsidizing the kick-off phase before it becomes normal enough and widespread enough to live on its own. If nothing else, you'll need more carpool lanes.

Finally, you NEED an integrated taxi service that on the credit system as well as regular drivers... as soon as someone is stranded they're not going to use it anymore.

Anthony Howe

Yorkshire man 1: I used to catch rides between planets with an Electronic Thumb.

Yorkshire man 2: That's nothing. I used to hitch rides using my real thumb! Douglas Adams drove me to Buckingham Place once.

Zaphod head 1: That's nothing. I used my big toe to hitch a ride on a moped with this hot blonde.

Zaphod head 2: And you try and tell the young people of today that ... they won't believe you.


Original or not, interesting idea. If it significantly increased the number of car-poolers, that would be a good thing. Just as long as you don't expect it to be the entire solution, it's worth a shot. I'm going to give more negatives than positives below, but I really do like this idea as something that might help.

Things that might make this work:
1. Would appeal to techies who want to be seen as doing something for the environment.
2. An efficient way of getting a ride in congested urban areas.

Things that might make people *not* want to participate:
1. A lot of people just don't want to share their own private car with strangers. Never mind logic. They want a vehicle that's entirely at their disposal.
2. Distrust of strangers who are vouched for only by some impersonal rating system.
3. Rating system would probably not include factors that people would be ashamed to admit to, but that would in reality affect their willingness to give someone a ride. Race (be honest), attractiveness, obesity, body odor. Or perhaps people would be given unfairly low ratings based on these, but supposedly based on something else.
4. Freeloaders who would give the bare minimum of rides to others that the system would permit.
5. This is obviously a city-person's idea, based on steady traffic at all hours. Less practical in less densely populated areas, where you could be waiting a long time for a ride.


["We are the most productive society in history" --JIM]

wow, bold one. are you sure? just how are you measuring that?

Antti Hannula

There is a company called Ecolane which has already developed mobile-phone based dynamic carpool service. Check out and especially for more information.

The most difficult part of the dynamic carpool service is to have such a "engine" that can in real-time match the "supply and demand of trips", using the computing power nowadays available to do this.

The technology is already tested in high-volume demand-responsive transportation (DRT) services so it is just a question whose business is it actually to operate a dynamic carpool service ie. who can pull it up in order to get the critical mass of users?

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