Give social networking a set of wheels and you get Avego Driver, billed as the first on-demand real-time ride-sharing application for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Now rather than sticking out your thumb, you can use your smartphone to hitch a ride. Or offer one to a fellow traveler going your way.
Here's how it works. Participants provide a phone number and a credit card so Avego can verify they're real people and manage the exchange of funds to cover gas for the driver — and the developer's 15-percent cut for its matchmaking service. After a driver inputs their route via Avego, potential passengers request a ride, specifying their location. Other drivers along this route are also simultaneously notified of an interested rider.
Avego Driver then calculates how much the rider should be charged to compensate the driver. When the two parties agree, the passenger is directed to a convenient pick-up location and both are given a unique PIN number in order to verify identity. Avego Driver provides real-time info so the rider is informed when the driver will arrive at the rendezvous point. And audio notifications are provide so that the driver doesn't have to interact with the app while on the road.
But it doesn't end there for the driver or passenger.
The Avego app includes peer-reviewed accountability. Drivers and riders can rate each other on a scale of one to five. If either gives a 1-star rating, they will never be matched up again. And you can be selective with the groups of people you want to be hooked up with. For instance, women can choose to ride only with other women. Avego Driver also provides simulated "ghost" riders so drivers can get their feet wet before picking up real people along their route.
But don't download the app expecting to give or get a ride right away. The app is currently being tested in Seattle and it may take awhile for it to hit critical mass. A pilot program is being rolled out on Highway 520 (called go520 ) in Washington, a route frequented by Microsoft employees and University of Washington students. Avego has also conducted small-scale tests throughout the world, and the app mirrors similar efforts by the popular French carpooling site Covoiturage.fr.
We know that some of you would probably rather walk barefoot on hot asphalt than ride shotgun in someone else's car. But with the national average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded rising to $3.97 — a whopping 36.5% increase from last year — this could save you some money. And some wear and tear on your ride.
Gretchen McFarlan, Contributor