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With new apps and websites, ride-Sharing is experiencing a renaissance

By Kristan Schiller

The age-old practice of carpooling—once reserved for soccer moms and bridge club pals—has seen a resurgence in recent years as long-distance travelers and 9 to 5 commuters alike take advantage of apps and websites that make it easy to find strangers who are going their way. Ride sharing is a win-win-win, helping reduce road congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, and allowing travelers to save on gas and car maintenance expenses.

Specifically, apps like GroupMe and websites such as Zimride.com, Ridejoy.com, Avego.com, Nuride.com and Rideshare.com are facilitating carpooling, caravanning and all sorts of social gatherings. The sites vary in their methods of matching drivers with passengers, in their security protocols and in how payment is adjudicated. Some will allow participants to settle among themselves on the cost of a ride while others charge by the mile. And many of these sites are currently testing or launching mobile apps for iPhone and Android.

For its part, General Motors is in the process of rolling out a broad growth initiative that gives select third-party developers an opportunity to create innovative mobile applications that interact with OnStar’s suite of services.

“GM is opening up new possibilities with this approach,” says Nick Pudar, Director of Developer Ecosystems, Global Connected Consumer, General Motors. “We’re making vehicles ‘app relevant.’”

One type of “personal mobility” that GM is working on, Pudar explains, will be launched in new vehicles that have an “app shop” (similar to “Google Play,” where drivers can download and access apps from their cars). “We’ll either provide connectivity through a cell phone,” he says, “or built in through 4G LTE connection.”

Beyond the numerous apps and websites that facilitate carpooling now, Pudar asks, “Wouldn’t it be great if the app could be in the car?” For example, someone is trying to hail a ride to downtown San Francisco; through this new connectivity in their GM vehicle, a Chevy driver gets a signal advising him or her on where to pick up the carpooler.

The car-sharing possibilities that might emerge from this kind of built-in connectivity are virtually endless.

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Kristan Schiller is a New York-based travel writer and blogger whose articles have appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and Fodor’s, as well as on Forbestraveler.com and Salon.com.