Ridesharing in Europe

BlaBlaCar.com is presented by its co-founder Nicolas Brusson as a Paris-based ridesharing service. It is a new transportation network made of people who share the cost of the fare.

(…)  Founded in 2004 and now in 10 countries (including the UK, where it launched 2011), the Paris-based ride-sharing service, which handles 600,000 passengers a month, is on track to pip Eurostar‘s 900,000 by the end of the year. With 3 million Europeans registered as members, the company is that rarest of breeds – a tech startup that solves a genuine problem.

“What we do is connect cities by creating a new transport network based on empty seats in cars,” says co-founder Nicolas Brusson. Drivers post on the website that they have, for example, three empty seats for their journey from London to Manchester on Friday evening. They set a fee of £15-£20. Passengers get in touch, and pay in the car or via the BlaBlaCar site. “The reason it’s taking off right now is the macroeconomic factors around us. Petrol prices going up, the cost of owning a car has gone up dramatically all over Europe – especially in the UK, when you include petrol, insurance, depreciation, MOT, tax and so on – at a time when disposable income hasn’t.

“On the driver side, we have an equation where the problem isn’t buying a car any more, it’s owning one – and that’s helping us to convince drivers to share their ride. On the other side, you see the same dynamic. Train prices, especially, have gone up dramatically in past five to 10 years. If you want to book a train from London to Manchester for Friday evening, you’re going to pay £50-£70 one way, when BlaBlaCar is going to cost you £15. So we offer a last-minute, flexible, super-low-cost transport network.”

BlaBlaCar, which received $10m in a venture round led by Accel Partners in January 2012, is free at first, allowing users to discover the service, be introduced to one another online and pay in person, thereby building up a level of familiarity and trust, says Brusson. “Then, as soon as we have enough people in the service, we introduce an online booking service, where essentially the passenger will pay online and we manage not only the interaction but also the transaction. The company holds on to the money, until the driver and passenger ride together and rate each other. Once we have the feedback that it worked, we transfer the money to the driver and take a commission fee.” For tax and insurance reasons, drivers aren’t allowed to make a profit on the journey, merely to cover costs.

Through feedback (BlaBlaCar has, for example, accumulated 2.3m ratings between members), social media and online data trails, including member profiles, mobile numbers, credit card and bank details, a layer of transparency is created. “We have a complete track of who travelled where with whom and when,” says Brusson. “In terms of trust and safety, which is always a debate in sharing economy, that’s very powerful.” (…)

Read the full text article on The Guardian : James Silver, The sharing economy: a whole new way of living, The Observer, Sunday 4 August 2013. (Accessed September 19, 2013)

See how BlaBlaCar works

Presentation of BlaBlaCar.com by its co-founder Nicolas Brusson

Read also: Katie Fehrenbacher (2013), Why ride sharing is booming in Europe, but not the US, Jun. 26, 2013. http://gigaom.com/2013/06/26/why-ride-sharing-is-booming-in-europe-but-not-the-u-s/ (Accessed September 19, 2013)

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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