SideCar, an app for hitchhiking

Maybe there's such a thing as a free ride, in the hi-tech age—thanks to a new app.

Digital hitchhiking

Shutterstock Sidecar; Photo Illustration by Sarah MacKinnon

We’ve all been told never to accept rides from strangers, but SideCar—a San Francisco-based start-up—is hoping people will forget that advice. Using a smartphone app, its members can track down local drivers with some extra space in their cars, and flag them down for a lift. (All drivers are licensed, insured, and have passed background checks.) Any payment is voluntary, although a “community average” price is suggested. The newly launched ride-sharing app will soon branch out to other cities, too.

SideCar, which is drawing comparisons to Airbnb (a blockbuster service that lets people crash in others’ homes), is tapping into a trend: the smartphone generation is less interested in owning a car than ever. Americans aged 18 to 34 bought almost 30 per cent fewer new cars in 2011 compared to 2007, notes a recent report by Lacey Plache, chief economist at Car-sharing and ride-sharing services are proliferating, and car manufacturers are fretting over the trend.