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LibreTaxi – A free and open source alternative to Uber and Lyft (libretaxi.org)
1275 points by bpierre on Jan 31, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 382 comments

I'll post a comment from ProductHunt, which might give a bit more context to where the founder sees this going, and why cash rides make sense under certain circumstances he designed the app for:

[…] I have gone to the founder's blog and it provides a better understanding of where he sees it going: Uber (and similar apps) will never reach many remote villages, cities and regions around the world (and don't have to), but technology could greatly help the local communities in solving their transportation problems that are as "simple" as getting from point A to point B with no other feasible options available.

For more details, here's the founder's blog on this: https://medium.com/@romanpushkin/how-i-made-uber-like-app-in...

> technology could greatly help the local communities in solving their transportation problems that are as "simple" as getting from point A to point B with no other feasible options available

In rural communities here in Chile, and also in smaller towns, there is an amazing solution to this called Collectivo. I had never heard of it before arriving, but man it's the greatest thing. It's something in-between a bus and a taxi: a taxi with a predefined route. So if you're on a route, which there are many, you flag down a collectivo as it passes, and since both you and the driver already know where it's going, it'll stop for you even if there are already people in the car.

What makes this amazing is that it's cheap because the route is pre-set, and it's shared, and the driver can just go all day knowing there will be people along the route, and doesn't have to finish one ride before starting another. But meanwhile they'll generally go partially off their route if you request it, and it's not too much of a bother.

Why don't North American rural areas do this? It's a really great way to get around, and makes it so you can live (or at least visit) in rural areas without owning a car.

They are known as Dolmuş in Turkey. Essentially van-taxis. There's share taxis [0] in quite a few countries (often from airport to hotels or other high frequency routes). In Germany there's also "Anrufsammeltaxi (AST)" which is essentially a van like taxi-bus that you can call which is loosely bound to the regular bus routes. There's also "Bedarfsgesteuerter Flächenbetrieb" which is basically a bunch of van-taxis cruising around a set area without fixed routes. They usually use sophisticated route optimization, too.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Share_taxi

That's kinda what uber 'pool' and lyft 'line' are. Continual on/off of passengers, but without set routes - you join people close to the car's current route.

Pre-set routes seem distinctly worse. By definition they don't flex to handle new / temporary traffic patterns. Though they do have a super-huge benefit of not needing an app / real-time requests - in some cases that's a requirement.

I think a large benefit that is offers is a better bounded time limit for how long it will take to get to your destination. Pool can take a highly variable amount of time.

Only if it runs on time :) But good point.

If you're a rural family, how will you bring groceries back for the month? What if you need to buy a new bed or sofa? What if you have to visit off the route, or it's just snowed and the collectivo owner doesn't want to bother with the route?

Americans own cars because it's convenient to do many different things with them. If I own a car and my child is sick, I can go get medicine from the all-night pharmacy. I don't want to give up that power just because social planners think I should be happy with a bus or car that I have to plan my life around, not the other way.

A car is good to have, sure, that doesn't mean I need to use mine every day. I've started catching the bus in to work, instead of 45 minutes of battling traffic in the morning I now have an hour and a half to read or draw or code or just nap even. I also have the option to stop in to the city for a meal and a beer on the way home without having to worry about overnight parking, fares are about as much as petrol and the buses here run on LPG which in my eyes is a plus.

This obviously holds less true the further from the city you go but what I'm trying to get at is that you can own a car and still benefit from good public (or in this case, alternate) transport. I still need to keep the car registered and in working order to transport my double bass from time to time and want to keep it that way for all the benefits that you described. What I don't is for me to be shackled to the thing as my only form of transport, much like you don't want to be shackled to a bus timetable.

Just because these services exist, doesn't mean that you need to give up your car to benefit from them (and that's not even going in to benefits provided to people in your community who CAN'T drive).

yes that's a service readily available in pretty much any developing country in the world.

The not so fun part of it is that if the minivan you are in has nine seats and there are already, say, twenty passengers on it, plus a couple of chickens, the driver will still stop by and collect additional passengers! :)

To be fair I've experienced the same thing with both city buses and taxis.. :) (Having them not stop because they are full that is.)

Minus the chickens of course..

Like buses, you just wait for the next one. So yes, it's a trade-off. Doesn't replace taxis. But it's damn nice when buses aren't readily available, and way more friendly.

I'm more familiar with this model popping up in large developing-world cities that have exceeded the capability of governance to provide transit, e.g. much of Africa is like this, with a host of small independents each running their own routes.

The two main issues they encounter, which are related to being private and decentralized, are that routes collect around a few hubs(e.g. "downtown" or "hospital") that guarantee customers, but get vastly over-serviced without a corresponding cross-town option; and they don't have a dedicated right of way, and end up fighting through the city traffic, sometimes getting stalled for hours by uncontrolled, massively over capacity streets.

There is a lot of room for technology to improve on this - if the governments got into the picture and ran a minibus app, they could track and subsidize those services to formalize it, encourage use and reduce inefficiencies, allowing a transit grid to be formed with little formal capital.

Americans don't like sharing.

Rural Americans? I don't have any experience in rural America, but I heard they're pretty friendly ;)

But maybe, yeah..

I grew up from 10 to 18 in a moderately rural area outside of Dallas. We share fine if and when we have to, but for the most part, we don't have to.

I saw a lady walking along the side of a rural road - this was about 12 years ago, so there weren't buses then, and there won't be in the next 12 years either - so I pulled over and asked her where she was going. Turns out she was going to walk, in the summer heat, to a grocery store about 10 miles away.

We shared my car just fine. But I certainly wouldn't go over to a neighbor and ask for a ride to the grocery store if my car was running ok.

I think that's it. Needing to share or using someone else's car is seen as a sign of weakness. OK for an old lady maybe. But a Real American rides their own damn car, and pays for their own damn healthcare...

I think it's actually because the USA has 0.8 cars per person. Why would people carpool or rideshare in a rural area when they've more-than-likely got their own cars?

One of the reasons the US is the second most polluting country in the world, only surpassed by China who has 4 times the population.

I lived in Chile as the first cohort in Start-Up Chile. Problem I had with Collectivo's is that I had no idea what their route was. Having the ability to arbitrarily say "I'm here and I want to go here." is very valuable.

I think the commenter's point is that with technology, routes can easily be shared, even commented/collaborated on. Think of it as a more flexible form of public transit rather than Lyft Line / Uber Pool.

This is what "Via" (https://ridewithvia.com/) and they got the idea from the van-busses in Israel and Turkey does here in NYC and some areas.

Yeah this is big in Zambia as well, in the form of privately owned vans. They had so many riders that the government built a big bus terminal for them and bus routes have become established just through free market mechanisms.

San Francisco has something similar called Chariot. It follows a set route like a bus, but is smaller and much quicker because there are far fewer pick-up and drop-off spots.

This sort of thing is common in many countries around the world. When the state doesn't take care of a need the people will.

They have something similar in cities in the US (at least NYC anyway), they're called dollar vans.

Yup now they charge $2 and made them legal after years of illegal pickups. They aren't very safe and stop in the middle of traffic on main avenues. Reckless driving as well. But guess NYC figured they might as well tax them if they werent going to stop -even with fines. I hate them but they are very popular by me in Brooklyn.

Edit- also, they are still not regulated well as I know of someone who was driving one and he does not even have a drivers license.

Black car drivers do this illegally along bus routes in NYC.

Uber is trying to address the Credit Card issues after it noticed that lots of Singaporeans, maids and foreign labor do not have credit cards but still needs the service. They accept cash now. https://www.techinasia.com/uber-cash-payments-singapore

If only there existed a peer-to-peer version of electronic cash that would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution . Maybe one of these days...

In my country most cell phones are on pre-paid plan. You can buy cell phone credits at a gas station, then that credit gets used up as you make calls and send messages.

When the cell phone companies came up with a service to transfer cell phone credits to other users, people started using that as currency. Only problem is each company runs its own proprietary system and there is no way to send credit to a someone who uses a different cell phone company.

If you think about it, phone companies have the best micro-transaction infrastructure on the planet. They are constantly charging people fractions of a penny per second per phone call.

In a few countries like Kenya and Tanzania, this concept is already in use and is extremely widespread. A LOT of people use this system instead of having a bank account. They even use it to pay bills and buy things at stores.


Yeah - but they're not talking about mobile money - they're talking about bitcoin.

Yes, but unlike bitcoin, M-Pesa is actually used by average people.

I actually tried starting a company based on that, but when I went to talk to the cell phone providers, one of them candidly explained to them that SMS was their cash cow and that it was essentially free for them, and calls were very cheap related to what the person paid, so it makes no sense for them to enable people to use the credit for other stuff which might get them into trouble later - think lawsuits, regulations, and all the complications of becoming a payment provider.

The issue often isn't a financial institution to go through; it's the logistics challenge in using an electronic cash system in the first place.


debit cards are electronic cash.

You forgot the magic word non-volatile.

And forgot the year and a half long debate over scaling that has caused an increase in prioritization fees and delays.

Irrelevant. The sole criterion for viability of a currency is acceptance.

That's true, but non-volatility counts for something there. Money classically has three roles, as a medium of exchange, a measure of value, and a store of value; when something's value fluctuates dramatically over time, it's failing to fulfill the second and third roles. Measure of value is unimportant for day-to-day use (although vital for accounting), but store of value is indispensable.

I'm guessing that we're secretly talking about Bitcoin here; I think that what BTC needs is some organization that controls a lot of capital, and is willing to underwrite the value of the bitcoin. Fiat currencies work to the extent that their issuing countries can underwrite their value (by accepting the currency in payment of debts, primarily); precious metals work to the extent that there's non-monetary demand for them (so gold isn't actually very valuable in an apocalypse -- look at prices in the Siege of Sarajevo, discussed in a survivalist blog a few years back). Bitcoin doesn't really have either of these. It's a sort of fiscal hot potato -- good for exchange, certainly, but you wouldn't want to be the last person with all the world's bitcoin if everyone else lost interest in it.

Fiat currencies can also suffer from hyperinflation so the second and third problems are not unique to BTC at all.

Sure, but avoiding hyperinflation is Monetary Policy 101. Most currencies in developed countries have never experienced a hyperinflation and never will because money is created via the fractional reserve banking system as credit for which there is a definite future demand for repayment and taxes denominated in that currency create additional future demand[1]. People are prepared to accept currency because they have future debts and expected future debts denominated in it, and that confidence is boosted because whenever the central bank sees price rises above the level it's prepared to tolerate it steps in to adjust the supply.

The BTC mechanism for attempting price stability on the other hand does the opposite: the supply is designed to grow very steadily, but with no reason whatsoever to believe a stable and sustainable demand for that particular cryptocurrency exists in future.

[1]Hyperinflations occur when the supply of money grows steadily without even bigger growth in future demand obligations, which in practice invariably happens because the government has resorted to printing it to discharge debts and release people from future tax obligations. This actually looks more like a Bitcoin economy (albeit with more potential for the money supply to grow really, really quickly) in that what the government is doing is decoupling supply from demand.

On avoiding hyperinflation, it's certainly true that we know how to do it. For the infamous Weimar hyperinflation, I'd refer you to Adam Fergusson's When Money Dies; what drove the hyperinflation was two things, that the government was unwilling to control its spending (it risked France annexing the Saarland), and that the head of the national bank was poorly educated. When Schacht was brought in, in 1923 (10 years before Hitler; Schacht has a reputation as Hitler's banker, but had never heard of Hitler in '23), he was able to stabilize things pretty quickly: Britain had intervened to rule out a French annexation of the Saarland, and Schacht was more with-it on monetary theory than his predecessor had been.

The risk of Wiemar-like circumstances striking again in the West are basically zero, unless a Wiemar-like perfect storm of defeat and ignorance strikes again; and even then, hyperinflation never lasts long (no one can live under it for long). One woman weathered the Wiemar hyperinflation by selling one link of a gold Rosary chain a day to buy food; a quite modest amount of precious metal is enough to outlast this sort of disaster.

> hyperinflation never lasts long

How about Venezuela then ?

I call this false. Got proof?




All currencies, all are as volatile as can be.

Those currencies you list might be volatile vis-a-vis some foreign currency (and thus vis-a-vis "foreign products"), but they're presumably somewhat stable vis-a-vis "domestic products" (you might have inflation, but that typically goes up only, so it's drift, not volatility).

Bitcoin doesn't really have "domestic products", that is things that are denominated in it.

So, low volatility is a quality criterion for money, and those currencies fulfil it (domestically).

In time of war or hyper inflation, domestic currency might get too volatile, and that's when people switch to other money, such a cigarettes or foreign currency.

Hyperinflation needs to go really off the charts for people to switch to other currency.

Source: lived under a hyperinflation of 1900%/year and people did not switch currencies.

And those three markets also accept (and even more highly value) stable currencies. Bring a Euro to any store in Belarus and it'll be accepted at a greater value than the listed exchange rate.

> it'll be accepted at a greater value than the listed exchange rate.

Didn't realize how dire the listing situation was there


It's simpler than that, currency exchanging costs money. If you're using a foreign currency, then you don't have to pay those fees. If, that currency is even available in your country (in some, using certain countries is prohibited)

yeah, i do expect to see one come up in a few years. i'm guessing it'll catch on in africa or asia first, where there are fewer entrenched players.

m-pesa is a good start, at the least.

Seriously, if these people don't have credit cards, and are paid mostly in cash, how do you expect them to have "magic internet money"?

They have smartphones with apps; the step to having an online payment provider is a small one.

This correlation is not always true, an in emerging markets, this correlation is almost always wrong. Access to Smart phones unfortunately doesn't always mean the availability of banking infrastructure OR the presence of a cashless economy . For example -

- Android phones are dominant in this market, since local manufacturers are able to sell cheap phones without incurring any software development cost.

- Telecommunication sector is heavily privatized in these markets & generally have multiple players offering low cost "pre-paid" services. Recharge stations and mobile stores are pretty ubiquitous - small mom & pop shops double up as resellers of these services , providing last mile coverage.

- On the contrary, Banking infrastructure is so heavily state run. And they don't have the same level of 'ease of access'. So, a lot of people working in the "unorganized sector"(Note: This is an official terminology that governments recognize and use) don't have formal accounts in financial institutions.

- Even if they did, a good number of banks run decade old tools and softwares. Making it all the more difficult to do mobile & online banking .

- And also, most of these economies are not cashless. Culturally and for other reasons,there is more trust on "Paper Cash".

- Finally , just because a person owns a cheap smart phone & ,one cannot assume banking literacy.

Too naive an assumption. I know of certain online payment platforms that have to blacklist certain regions of the world because of fraud detection and the like..

If only Bitcon had a high enough block size limit to allow more than 1.67 KB/s of transaction data per second. It could be a cryptocurrency, but it can't be Bitcoin.

Sounds like a terrible solution for a place lacking something as financially basic as credit/debit cards.

I think it's more because Grab (Uber's competitor in Singapore) has always had the cash option from the start (Grab introduced GrabPay — their credit card option — after) [1], and Uber was trying to match the "feature".

[1] https://vulcanpost.com/171862/grabtaxi-uber-challenge-cashle...

In the Philippines, Uber accepts cash. It has the options UberX, Uber Black, UberPool and UberHop (point-to-point)

In India, Uber accepts cash as well as PayTM, and this has helped adoption.

In Pakistan, Uber and it's winning competitor (Careem) take Cash. Which is the preferred method here since banking/card is still not so common.

Wouldn't it be worthwhile to have an Uber membership card or something so they don't have to carry cash.

Most people dont mind caring cash. Personally i prefer it to digitalized closed systems whenever possible.

The same thing happens in Guadalajara, Mexico.

One interesting thing an Uber driver told me is that, depending on the area of the city, the majority of people pay with cash or with card. So when he needs cash he drives to a certain area to catch a service.

The same is true in Argentina. Average citizens don't (can't) have credit cards, but Uber has started accepting cash recently.

In Argentina, the main problem for Uber is that the court ordered the credit card companies to block payments made by local clients to Uber, because of the company not adjusting to local regulations. So, if you don't have a credit card from another country, you can't use the app, and that makes it hard if not impossible for them to build the necessary economy of scale that their kind of operation needs.

Yup, that's also an issue. Mastercard does work though, but considering how few people have credit cards (and even fewer have Mastercard specifically), they're having problems hitting critical mass.

Cash is also accepted in Mexico ... TJ at least.

I have the option of cash payments here in New Zealand. I think I had that option in the US, too.

I think Uber accepts cash in Argetina too. At least in Buenos Aires.

Uber Egypt has cash

Was scratching my head why anyone would build an Uber clone but his explanation makes perfect sense. He is tackling a market that Uber might never enter -- rural areas.

Uber (and similar apps) will never reach many remote villages

Here in China you can get long distance ride-sharing to remote locations with the shunfengche service of Dididache. It's very popular, particularly since transportation options to some areas are limited and bus stations are often located in irritatingly obtuse urban peripheral locations.

So we think that they live in remote villages using smartphones but no electronic payment? Is this really a valid use case?

This is very much the case I have seen atlest in India. People have access to cheap smart phones.

Having traveled extensively in Asia, I know and have met LOTS of people that have a smartphone (typically some Chinese android thing), but no credit cards, and sometimes not even a local bank card.

If they're playing a long-tail game like this, would it make accepting credit card payments more difficult? Maybe that's why they don't handle payment?

I know these Stripe-like APIs advertise that building one integration will allow you to send (to driver) and receive (from rider) money in many different currencies, but I have to believe it would be extremely tough to do. Support overhead alone would be large. Is this accurate?

I also imagine that these more remote communities have more of a cash economy than urban communities, but this is a complete guess.

My concern with this is the problem of ensuring the safety of the person driving the cab and the real identity of the rider.

Lots of drivers will be reluctant because they can be stiffed on the bill. Lots of passengers will be reluctant to use it due to the inherent risk of riding with what is essentially a stranger.

Shouldn't be an obstacle. This is already exactly how normal, hailable, regulated taxis work (at least in much of the USA, and certainly in NYC -- I can't speak for elsewhere). That's why taxi driver is (at least in the US) a statistically more dangerous occupation than police officer.

From the point of view of a driver, this scheme is less dangerous than the status quo, at least there is potentially a little more paper trail to prove a rider rode.

From the point of view of a rider, there is the advantage in regulated taxis that the driver is licensed and identified, but in countries where it's feasible, I don't see why LibreTaxi couldn't have an option to "request licensed driver only" or something

"at least in much of the USA, and certainly in NYC"

Here in Kenya, and much of the developing world, things are quite different. Traditionally, people would save known and trusted drivers in their phonebook, and call them when needing a taxi. If you're somewhere far from your drivers, you might call a friend who lives there and ask them.

That's how we got started on our own app (http://maramoja.co.ke): we let people favourite drivers, and let them choose the driver for their ride. We show them who's their favourite, who's their friend's (e.g. from Facebook, phonebook, referrals) favourite etc.

Although other apps have now made an inroad here (Nairobi), particularly Uber, whose marketing budget we of course cannot match, there's still quite a number of people who won't use their "just any driver" approach.

This is an extremely interesting example of how a technological fix can emerge in a difficult situation. Transferable to the US context, too. Thanks!

I have to disagree that this is "exactly how normal taxis work". Notable differences (many apply to Uber/Lyft also):

1) There's no check to ensure that the vehicle is ensured for commercial rides before they start taking hails.

2) Likewise, no background check.

3) No regulatory body to investigate cases of e.g. scamming passengers out of money or refusal to comply with agreed-upon rates and dropoff. [1]

4) The local PD doesn't stand ready to treat assault on a driver like assault on a police officer, in terms of marshalling resources.

5) No central registry, or even private registry of cars/drivers in operation.

6) Drivers aren't trained in the relevant anti-robbery countermeasures.

7) In NYC, the barrier to prevent the most obvious kinds of robbery.

That makes a big difference in safety of paying cash to a roving operator!

Sadly, I think the "big corp middleman" does add a lot of value that a free app can't replicate without similar investment, scale, and "walled garden"-ness.

[1] I know commenters here like to roll their eyes about the clumsiness and lackadaisical enforcement -- I'm one of them! But it's at least something, which prevents a major scale-up of this behavior.

All those points would not be an obstacle to an open source solution that is not trying to build a grand unified global Uber drop-in for random rideshare drivers to sign up with, but instead only ("only") tries to be an installable turn-key solution for existing operators (or regional federations thereof) to add the smartphone hailing user experience to their existing offering, without much investment.

I did not find a clear answer on the site wether this project is aiming at independent ridesharing or at being a turn-key solution for more conventional taxi dispatch organisations. There is the idea of "hack and tune it for your city", which is clearly not the global approach, but then they also advertise "1-minute hiring", which is definitely not what I would be looking for if I were to customize it for my hypothetical preexisting organisation.

Something like wordpress or the myriad open source online shop systems, but for taxi dispatch and with a unified smartphone client (or client protocol, actually) that can work with all installations. That might be the best way to avoid a single gobally dominant private network that can set their "tax" on all rides at will. The app/clients might be supported for discovery by a global registry of regional installations and some trust management, but it might actually be not only easier but also more reliable to just leave that to plain old web, with something like libretaxi:-URIs to connect the app to a regional network discovered by your search engine of choice.

All of the above, plus:

Taxi drivers, at least herearound, have mandatory rest periods, which are very strictly enforced. I know that for a fact, since my girlfriend used to drive a cab. Even if you adhere to your rest period (and can prove it), but don't have the paperwork straight this can lead to hefty fines.

There's nothing stopping your friendly Uber driver to drive you around after two back breaking shifts at the factory.

He may even quaff a couple beers, or three, before starting his "Uber shift". Something which is an absolute No!No! for a licensed cabbie. They have very stringent zero tolerance rules when it comes to booze. Your Uber driver does not.

I can't speak for the rest of the world, but imagine that this situation is quite comparable to a lot of places.

Getting in a taxi with a $250K medallion and the city of New York behind it is much different than getting in someone's car...

Without someone vetting these drivers and taking a risk and responsibility for people's safety, this seems like a terribly dangerous way for anyone to get around.

Medallion has nothing to do with it, any TLC licensed driver can rent a medallion cab. To get a TLC license you pass a BS exam that anyone can pass and a background check, and get an ID.

I don't see why LibreTaxi, in areas that have a individual driver licensing scheme, couldn't require that. You just look at the driver's license when you get in, or they post it on the back seat. The license information is recorded in LibreTaxi so everyone knows there's a paper trail if anything happens.

This would be identical in safety for everyone to medallion hailable cabs, or am I missing something?

passing an exam, obtaining a license and passing a background check sound like a much more thorough vetting process than the "1-minute hiring" on this app

As far as I understand it the "1-minute hiring" is not something the people behind libretaxi are actually doing, it's something people running a libretaxi instance would do.

Or hopefully they would rather not, at least if they are serious about it and are not just running on a short-lived inspiration to play pretend-Kalanick.

Medallion has nothing to do with it, any TLC licensed driver can rent a medallion cab. To get a TLC license you pass a BS exam that anyone can pass and a background check, and get an ID.

If I was going to do nefarious things, I wouldn't bother with any of that. I'd instead just carjack a taxi and have at it.

And have the taxi company report it immediately to the cops when you weren't the proper operator of the vehicle on the radio. The cops and the company would then use the vehicle's GPS system to track you down and find you in record time - as I've seen and heard happen in NYC.

Exactly my point

Actually, no - every medallion cab in NYC is required to have the driver's name, license number, and picture posted where the passenger can see it. I can, in theory, check any cabbie's license before I set foot in the taxi.

"Terribly dangerous" == not dangerous at all.

Criminals aren't liable to want to leave an electronic trail driving a taxi just to rob someone. It's likely to be nearly as safe as riding Uber or Taxis in general, which is to say extremely safe.

What's more likely is the driver will get robbed, but even then that's not going to happen very often.

Part of the pitch is that there isn't much of an electronic trail.

>This is already exactly how normal, hailable, regulated taxis work

It's funny, isn't it? Every pro-Uber article around here talks about the over-regulated, controlled taxi environment and how damaging it is. Then a service appears that goes the other way: peer-to-peer, no middle-man. Now people complain that it could be dangerous, and they need regulation and control?

Which is it? And what makes anyone believe Uber (or themselves) know what that "proper level" is?

My personal opinion is that the proper level is whatever ensures there's safety and control over both T&LC drivers and their vehicles - including limiting the number of said vehicles on the road at any one time. On the more personal level, requiring a percentage of the fleet to be ADA-compliant vehicles (i.e. wheelchair accessible), as well as a clear identification of the driver's identity and license number, are absolute necessities. If we could put speed and range limiters on the cars, I'd be even happier.

>Shouldn't be an obstacle. This is already exactly how normal, hailable, regulated taxis work

Except normal hail-able taxis are driven by professional drivers with background checks and large insurance policies. There's no guarantee the person who picks you up with this app will even be a licensed driver. A lot of the value in Uber is that they take care of these things, not just the app side of things.

But do I care as a passenger? I see little or no reason to personally. Perhaps some might be more concerned about their safety, heck, I might be if I was to consider someone other than myself - but me personally? I'm more concerned about cost and privacy.

Keeping those things in check would have me using the service far more, even if it was slightly more risky - I don't believe the risk would be substantial enough for me to care.

I don't know if this feature is still around, but in India the calls to drivers/passengers were made via pressing the button in the app, which launched the dialer and connected the two calls via a third ephemeral phone number provided by a cloud telephony API.

Last night, my Uber driver told me the reason he does it is that it's safe - way safer than taxi driving. He says there is no cash, the users are all tracked, and they already have their trip sorted.

He was never a taxi driver - he's a retired teacher.

Taxi driver is more dangerous than being a Police Officer because being a Police Officer is a very safe job.

BlaBlaCar [0] operates/ed only with community reviews (for drivers and passengers) and is doing just fine in EU... It is in fact so successful, that govs and press always talk about "services like blablacar and uber" (they're classified as basically the same kind of service)

[0] https://www.blablacar.com/

Not sure about other EU countries but here in Italy Blablacar and Uber are completely different.

For example the price you're allowed to ask is calculated to ensure it's only a cost sharing without any income for the driver.

> without any income for the driver

What? It doesn't make sense... Then why would any driver want to provide services via the app?

Also, I'm not talking about the specifics of the payment or reward systems, I'm just pointing out that they're both considered to be "on the same level" and in the same "difficult to tax" tech service (carpooling, ride-sharing, etc)... just google "blablacar uber" and see the results...

Because it reduces their cost on a route they were already going to take. It's the actual sharing part of the so-called 'sharing economy'.

Because the cost of fuel in the EU is quite high, and a lot of people commute long(er) distances on a regular basis instead of flying.

It is considered an entirely acceptable system because the "cost reimbursement" will fully cover the cost of wear + tear + fuel, meaning that a drive across the country can be rendered effectively free for the driver.

Also, "without any income for the driver" isn't necessarily correct - if you have a full car you will make a tidy profit.

Edit: the cost of a blablacar trip to a passenger would be on the order of 13-16 euros for an hour's drive. Comparable or cheaper than a train, with more flexibility.

Because BlaBlaCar is NOT a taxi service. They can't operate in Europe as a Taxi service, as it will be illegal to have a Taxi service without the proper permissions, paying proper taxes, etc. So they are doing REAL car sharing. Some one helps you to pay for the cost of the trip, and that's it. It's the old car pooling but more teachy.

Others have talked about fuel costs, but some BlaBla drivers I've met simply wanted company in longer solitary trips.

At least here in Finland, you are only allowed to share the expenses and not profit from it (unless you're a registered taxi driver and have the permit). There is a small incentive for the driver if he/she is heading the same direction anyway but otherwise you're right, it doesn't make any sense for the driver. So it's quite different from Uber in that sense.

because if you make a profit you need a professional insurance and or a taxi license. blablacar is a carpool service where the driver is not professional. You use it to recoup fuel costs and tolls.

Other justifications are: having company, decreasing your carbon footprint.

> Then why would any driver want to provide services via the app?

The incentive of the driver is sharing the cost of the gasoline/roads with the rider. Cost of gasoline in EU is higher than in US.

Because if they profit they are either uninsured, or need to sort out extra cover.

Wouldn't being uninsured for liability be equally bad whether the driver makes a profit or not? If you injure someone and are at fault or get sued, that's a major civil liability, regardless of whether the person you injured was paying you or not.

As long as you don't make a profit the usual (and legally mandated) liability insurance covers all passengers.

I see, right, because personal drivers' insurance will often have exclusions for business use.

Austria here: Pretty standard model. Uber driver gets a share of the profit. So that is not the same all over the EU.

Spain (I know this from a Friend): Pretty harsh regulations, no Uber at all.

So it is stupid.

As far as I understand, BlaBlaCar has some centralized controls on your identity since payments go through them and changing your payment info is not quite as easy as making up a new nickname.

That's a big difference to an anonymous-by-default cash-only network.

> That's a big difference to an anonymous-by-default cash-only network.

I haven't used it recently but in 2013-2014-2015 it was as an anonymous-by-default cash-only network. (edited original post to reflect it)

Overall I had zero problems, very nice experience, and I met interesting people

You used to be able not to use any of their payment services. Also identity verification processes that they offer/ed are/were not obligatory. So in many cases references were all people used to trust someone.

(I have been using the service for years)

They operated for years without accepting payments, the payment is a recent thing.

Their business model is to first expand to a territory by providing a simple connection between passengers and drivers. Then, when their user base is large enough, they introduce the payment system.

However, when I was using the service it was quite common to get the drivers number and contact them directly for the "next" time.

My point is that since the payments are a recent change, previously the rides were in fact completely anonymous.

I've literally never heard anyone outside Spotify ads 3 years ago even mention blablacar, let alone in the same breath as Uber.

Paid media coverage is a far cry from regular people actually using/talking about it. I've never heard of them.

Loads of people use it for going to/from UK-France as it's generally the cheapest method (both for drivers and passengers).

it's super popular in France, at the very least.

It's used for longer distances, city to city, country to country. I wouldn't see it as the same market as Uber is in. Plus it's ride sharing, not "taxi" (as in driver rides only because you told him to).

Germany here.

Everyone I know (not exaggerating) knows about or has used services from BlaBlaCar.

Students use it regularly. Services like https://www.fromatob.de/ include it in the fare calculation.

Uber and Lyft are basically non-existent here.

Nor have I but apparently it's big in some parts of Europe, so I don't assume my experience applies everywhere.

Used it in Europe, sometimes cheaper than busses. Sometimes useful for unusual routes. It truely was "ride sharing", chipping in for fuel costs rather than a new job.

it's really popular in some European countries. For passengers it's an alternative to trains or bus coaches. It's used for intercity travel, not a taxi replacement. Also it's ride sharing, drivers are not professionals and are not allowed to profit from it. Drivers are only allowed to recoup fuel and toll costs on journey they intended to make anyway.

Certainly a valid concern but I will say that the willingness of both rider and driver to share a ride with a stranger varies from country to country.

I spent quite a lot of time in Russia before Uber took hold there and taking random rides from strangers, negotiating a price up front, was extremely common. Even as a tourist, I did it hundreds of times and it was generally accepted as safe by the populous. Sure, incidents occurred but I would bet if analyzed they were no more frequent than taxis or Uber.

This works less well for women ...

I see what you're implying but there are lots of places in the world where it's common to hail a ride from a complete stranger and men and women alike do so.

There's always a risk of being a victim of a crime when hailing a ride from a stranger and while Uber/Lyft somewhat mitigate the risk, it's not completely safe either.

True — which is why I said "works less well" and not "doesn't work". And you're absolutely right that safety is relative ;)

Author was also implying that they were visiting Russia. It's much harder to assess safety when you're not a resident, especially when you don't speak the language. And the fact that because many people in a culture engage in some behavior says little about its safety — e.g. riding scooters in Saigon, or smoking!

Yes, you'd be surprised. I had many friends, all vulnerable-looking 23 year old girls in towering heels and they used this "ride from a stranger" concept every single day for years. Believe me, I was shocked and apprehensive and my Mom was convinced I'd be murdered but it was shockingly safe and accepted. I do speak halfway decent Russian, and would certainly have been harder without it. Which is why I like the idea of this app, as it solves one of the problems. (Edit: I guess it doesn't really solve the language barrier, as it appears to be a Telegram app that likely involves some chatting to negotiate.)

That said, on my last visit, I used Uber many times, as it's incredibly cheap and requires no negotiation. But don't be in a hurry. The horrible traffic and very wide, divided streets of Moscow make it particularly challenging to navigate to a passenger's precise location, so it can be an extremely long wait even when free a vehicle is very close geographically. Perhaps LibreTaxi would help solve that by lowering the barrier to entry and drastically improving the number of cars available.

> Author was also implying that they were visiting Russia.

Yes, Russia especially is one of those places where every car on the road is a potential taxi and a lot of people use them.

I haven't visited personally but friends of mine who have did tell about their experiences on hailing rides from strangers without knowing the language. Don't take my anecdote as a safety recommendation or evidence of it.

It's a matter of cultural differences.

Uber/Lyft provides you with a sense of safety, but if you end up being a victim of a crime in an Uber in Russia, I'm not sure how much they can or will help you afterwards.

Once a taxi service gets enough drivers in the city here in Russia, it becomes highly preferable than random on-the-road vehicle. It automatically means that you get more precise (or even fixed) billing, pretty clean and decent cars, and drivers are motivated to not bother you in any way, because taxis usually have quality feedback that makes driver 'priority'. Going directly to the road is a last resort, even if you're already outside. It is not much for a physical safety, but service.

It's hard to find stats for the US, but here's one from Canada:


Men are overwhelmingly the majority of victims of stranger violence and robberies.

But... evolution dictates that we care more for women than for men.

Getting punched in the face or losing your wallet is a bit less traumatizing than sexual assault perhaps...

I suggest looking into the stats on sexual assault. The "OMG did you hear..." stories we tell each other aren't reflective of underlying reality.

Maybe in the US. Not every country in the world is as creepy.

We need a "CryptoCab" app. Secure, signed verification of driver id. And the app will even pick a random location near your intended destination to disguise your true destination.

Cryptography can be used to maintain trust, not establish it. If there's no party checking who the driver is (in real life), having a cryptographic certificate isn't much of a guarantee apart from "it's the same guy it was yesterday".

And if these certificates can be created ad-hoc, then you can always create a new one if you get a zero star review.

You can do that second one already. Nothing requires that where you have a hire car drop you off be where you are actually going. Just, you know, tell the driver another place. (And don't let the app use background location data.)

You'd need to be familiar enough with the place to know the name of nearby places though.

Or you could look up the address, and scroll down the map for a block or two.

Uber apparently makes you take a photo of yourself and then does facial recognition to confirm the user at the start of a session.

Yup. It runs on Microsoft Cognitive Services: https://blogs.microsoft.com/firehose/2016/09/26/powered-by-m...

Just getting credit card details would be simpler. Works for Uber. Why fix it if it ain't broken?

How is it more dangerous for the driver than picking someone up on a streat corner?

But that's not what Uber/Lyft does. And this is said to be an alternative to that.

And how do Uper/Lyft prevent ax murderers?


Considering the number of drivers/riders these services have, and the number of rides completed, I'd say that's an impressively small list of -- in many cases alleged -- incidents.

There's no way you could reasonably expect a rideshare service to eliminate all such incidents.

But do you have anything to compare it with? Regular taxis, just hitchhiking etc? Maybe the whole safety thing is just fearmonger.

We know the whole safety thing is a fear monger.

if people are worried, they shouldn't use it.

let the trailblazers get axed and eventually the trust ratings will build up on the non-murderers.

then they can use it.

The same way society in general prevents it.

In that case LibreTaxi should be just as safe, if Uber/Lyft don't have any tricks up their sleeves.

How does you prevent axe murders in your home?


He didn't say he uses traditional taxi's, maybe he has the same concerns for drivers in this situation. Also, I imagine a taxi company has some forms of insurance against people not paying, etc.

So, we may finally have found a good completely legal application for Bitcoin and blockchain contracts?

A blockchain-based rating system could be the killer app here.

How would a blockchain possibly help with that?

If it was proof-of-work, why would anyone trust that spending CPU time correlates with saying the truth?

If it was proof-of-stake, how can you guarantee that bad actors won't simply create a new public key?

And regardless, who would switch to an app that drains their battery?

You link your identity to the public ledger, and when people rate you positively, you build up your overall repuation score which anyone can verify on the public ledger.

And a web of trust benefits from blockchains or smart contracts because _____?

because there is no centralized determinator of trust.

Web of trust doesn't have a centralized determinator. You assign trust to people you've interacted with, and they assign trust to people they have interacted with, etc.

Putting it on a blockchain doesn't make that more effective.

If you look at the reviews of strangers, you have to figure out which ones are real and which ones are fake... it works exactly the same with or without blockchain.

putting it on the blockchain provides a mathematical proof that entity X got score Y. That itself doesn't solve the problem of proving that entity X corresponds to person P. Although person P could tie something such as driver's license number to entity X. Of course that could be done with a centralized trust system as well. But with the centralized trust too, but also requires trusting the centralized trust, and makes everyone subservient to that centralized trust.

Traditional web of trust has private keys for everyone. It's already decentralized and secure.

but web of trust means you have to trust your neighboring nodes, and trust that they are determining trust correctly for their neighbors, and so on.

You can use the exact same semi-trusting and crowd-trusting methods you would use on a blockchain. It's basically the same data, just without an extra layer of complexity thrown on.

How is that any different from taking a taxi nowadays?

Taxi drivers usually go through checks before they can get their license.

And yet taxi drivers still murder, rape and rob passengers every year. It's like the whole "background checks" thing is just a sop for fear mongers.

Of course they would! Why would you think that a background check would work everytime? And how about a change in behavior long after the checks?

But you cannot deny that some kind of check is better than no checks at all.

And yet taxi drivers still murder, rape and rob passengers every DAY.


Not the clients.

I was assuming OP was worried about the safety of the passengers. But yes, you're right.

A one-way check is better than nothing though.

If you read the authors blog post, you would see such fears are more or less due to overthinking and overcomplicating the issue at hand

I suspect this may be adopted in a lot of places by regular taxi drivers. Uruguay, for example, has something very similar called EasyTaxi (though I don't believe that App is open source) that allows you to call a taxi via an App and see when it arrives. You then pay the driver in outside the app via cash like you would any other taxi.

Dumb question - don't both of these concerns exist with normal taxis too?

Taxis, for all of their warts, have a number you can call, someone in the local government you can contact, etc.

How is Uber or whatever that different? You can call the police, which are already someones "in the local government you can contact".

And neither the police nor a taxi commission are capable of doing much to protect anyone before a crime is committed (except by the usual channels, e.g. credibly committing to punishing criminals).

Yes, you can contact someone who won't give a crap. That's what you get for paying the monopoly price for taxi services.

One way to manage this issue is by requiring ID verification for drivers ,another solution would be to implement a decentralized ledge (blockchain-like) ledger for who rides with whom .

I believe this is the core concern with all 'sharing economy' services, including Airbnb and Uber (which takes cash in some markets).

Passenger pick-up won't be as efficient. I'm assuming drivers will not be able to renegotiate their fare if they have to wait.

>, pay cash upon arrival.

Paying cash is a non-starter. I haven't been to a bank ATM in over 10 years. I don't even know what my card's secret PIN is to make a cash withdrawal. Being virtually cashless by using credit-cards for everything is very common in professional circles.

A credit-card is simpler and the exact line-item amount showing up on my monthly statement helps me keep track of travel expenses. (Also, many credit cards transactions will download to the Quicken ledger for people that use that personal finance software.)

Paying by credit also helps keep drivers accountable and reduces fraud.

That is a first world problem. Majority of the the world does not have a credit card or real access to a card. Majority of world pays with cash. A statement like this is similar to when I see American abroad and shocked that places don't take Amex for purchases. It's a very first world thing to even own an Amex let alone use it for a small purchases below $50.

>That is a first world problem.

But owning a smartphone with a touch screen (instead of tin cans connected by a string) and having the luxury of choosing between Uber vs LibreTaxi (instead of waving your arms on the street to hail a taxi) is also a 1st world problem. If we're discussing percentage of world market, 51%+ do not have combined attributes of (1) smartphone ownership[1] + (2) Uber availability + (3) preference for paying cash.

For customers, one of the key attractions to Uber is that drivers can't play the game of "oh sorry my credit card reader is broken, you'll have to pay cash". In other words, many customers deliberately choose Uber as way of not having to pay cash. (This point is more relevant in Uber-USA and not Uber-India that allows cash payment.)

The developer name I see on the LibreTaxi page is "Roman Pushkin, San Francisco, California" and since he's based in a 1st-world location, it seems like the Uber-vs-LibreTaxi has relevance to cashless people like me. If he intends for the service to be used mostly by 3rd-world countries where cash is king, I misunderstood the point of the Uber vs LibreTaxi comparison.

EDIT ADD 40-minutes later: I found author's comment on the intended market of customers: "Just started http://libretaxi.org - uber alternative for communities and remote regions." : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13328052

also see: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13530355: "Uber, a company evaluated at $60B, will unlikely go to remote Siberian region where I was born."

Conclusion: LibreTaxi isn't really a competitor to Uber -- it's more of an alternative to remote villages having no ride sharing at all and therefore cash payments makes perfect sense for that market.


Errrh, i live in the Philippines, it has 80 million people on very low incomes, and yet it has one of the highest penetrations of android smartphones per head than most all other countries. You can get a quadcore 16GB android smartphone here for $30-40US, and they have a fantastic prepay system here where peopl can send credit to each other via the phone, such that it has become a virtual currency in its own right. https://www.globe.com.ph/help/share-a-load https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prAP41533516

Since that article prices for smartphones have tumbled again. I bought a smartphone, quadcore, 4GB, built in TV, Built in radio for P1,700 (about $34) Its a cheap phone, but it works fine. http://ph.priceprice.com/MyPhone-my81-DTV-17896/

Sounds like jasode's point stands - anyone who has access to a smartphone also has access to non-cash means of payment.

As an example: India has 700 million mobile phone users, of which around 300 million are estimated to be smartphone users. Number of credit card users are around 20 million. the vast majority of "non-cash" payments would be done at some shop that will take cash and perform a digital payment or transfer for you.

Actually yes that's super common in a lot of countries.

In Vietnam it's the norm to have a smartphone but it's seriously difficult to get hold of a normal debit/credit card.

Not all systems in developing countries develop at the same speed. Some systems lag due to regulations, culture, etc. Other systems manage to leap-frog a generation.

I've been in Qatar for business. Coming from the US, it is shocking. Some systems have leapfrogged -- e.g., ease of banking, 2FA, mobile phone plans, messaging, ride-hailing apps, etc.

Other systems lag -- the most egregious example being the lack of a national address system. Correct -- i have no home address. Half the country does not -- people send GPS coordinates and WhatsApp location pindrops for ride-hailing and food delivery.

Places like Kenya have been leading the world in mobile payments.

Which you can use for this service as well.


A non-starter for you. Lots of other people like cash. Absent the need to make a profit, the app may gain traction by serving them. I don't find cash that convenient but I like using it, because I value privacy as much as I value convenience.

>> "I haven't been to a bank ATM in over 10 years."

I'm curious how this is possible or if you're exaggerating. I live in London, so a pretty well connected city, and although I can use card/contactless almost everywhere I still need cash about once a week as some small places won't accept card. 10 years ago I'm sure cash was much more necessary.

In America, my only need for cash is to leave tips for the hotel maid. But those amounts are $1 bills and the ATM machine only spits out $20. So every 2 or 3 months, I write a check for $100 (payee is "cash"), give it to the teller and she gives me back a stack of one-dollar bills. If I stay at a corporate apartment, I don't even need the $1 bills.

That bank interaction is obviously too cumbersome to withdraw $80+ every week to pay cash for taxis. If all taxis refused to take credit card then yes, I'd have to use the ATM on a regular basis.

You're right that cashless was only possible recently. Even though credit-cards had been around for 50+ years, most people couldn't go 100% cashless because many places like McDonald's fast food only took cash. Those restaurants avoided credit transactions because having customers wait for the charge receipt and then sign their name clogged up the queue with impatient people. However, a recent revolution in payment processing allowed "no signature" transactions for small amounts under a threshold (say $20). The "no signature" includes not having to electronically sign the touch pad -- it isn't just avoiding paper and pen. With that change, McDonald's started accepting credit cards in 2002. People also might notice that when they pay by credit card at Starbucks, they don't have to sign anything. Credit transactions are now so fast, the situation is reversed: cashiers take longer to count out exact change for cash transactions than let customers pay by credit card!

The "no sign" revolution helped make lots of the "cash only" places disappear so now it's very easy to be credit-card only.

Interesting, thanks for explaining. The bit I find most curious is writing the cheque. To me that seems more antiquated than using cash as I've never even owned a cheque book (although I understand it's still common in America to use them).

> Paying cash is a non-starter.

That certainly depends on the country. Good luck living cashless in Europe, especially in Germany where virtually no small store, food vendor etc. has a CC reader.

There are huge differences in Europe.

In Scandinavia you can pay with credit card almost everywhere, starting from a food truck at a festival. They'll have a tablet and a credit card reader connected. Some places don't take cash at all.

Varies wildly: come a few km northwards to Denmark and you'll easily go on for months without seeing a single banknote while living here. Hell in the past couple years I've withdrawn euros many more times than I did dkk because of trips to Germany: I need it far more often there than anywhere else in western and southern Europe. It's incredibly annoying.

Really? That's pretty surprising - I live in Barcelona, and I use cards 99% of the time, and in the UK it was even easier. Even taxis here have card machines, and every small shop definitely does. The only holdouts are the occasional tiny old wine bar here and there, but even most of them have moved with the times.

Unfortunately I didn't find more actual stats, but there is a report from Deutsche Bundesbank (German Federal Bank) from 2014 which states that in 2014 the share of cash payments in Germany was 79.1% and only 1.3% credit card transactions.[0, page 27] If I remember correctly, there is no other European country with such a low percentage of credit card transactions.

[0] https://www.bundesbank.de/Redaktion/EN/Downloads/Publication... [PDF]

The relevant page is 31 (pdf-page 33), containing a figure "Share of payment instruments broken down into various transaction amount categories in 2014, 2011 and 2008". In particular, 96% of transactions below 5€ were in cash, and 90% for transactions between 5 and 20€.

A breakdown by age group is on page 33. Unsurprisingly, young people pay by card more often than older people.

Various other figure breaking down card/cash usage along different lines are on the subsequent pages. Poorer people use cash for a larger percentage of their transactions than richer people.

Page 63 breaks down usage by occasion/purpose of payment (gas/restaurant/retail/...).

Lastly, 97% of Germans have a girocard (debit card), but only 1 in 3 have a credit card.

Barcelona may be special within Spain because it's such a huge tourist destination. This statistic (from Mastercard) says that only 16% of payments are cashless in Spain: http://www.mastercardadvisors.com/_assets/pdf/MasterCardAdvi...

Singapore, Netherlands, France and Sweden are way ahead (~60%). I'm a bit surprised that the US is only 45% cashless.

I totally agree.

And relevant to the actual topic: Even in big cities like Hamburg or Berlin it is not guaranteed that you can pay by card in a taxi. So I ask every time I enter one whether they accept credit cards or not. I would say 80% of my cab rides are paid in cash.

Depends on rural vs urban, and I suspect it would be the same in Germany. In London I can live cashless easily. When I went to the west highlands I had to start carrying cash.

Nope. Good luck paying by card at a bakery or in a bar. The canteen where we eat at work is cash-only, too. Cash is still very popular in Germany.

I went to small towns and big cities there and the only cash I paid was for tolls. Where specifically are you talking about?

Are we talking about the same Germany? There are extremely few toll roads (as in: most Germans will never use one in their life) and uniformly across the country, small shops (such as bakeries and food stalls) operate on cash only. Basically mostly national chains take cards, for the rest it's hit and miss.

In other European countries things look different: On the other extreme is Sweden which I visit regularly. I couldn't even tell you how their cash looks like because I haven't used any for a long time.

In Austria almost everybody takes Maestro, but even large stores don't always take Mastercard/Visa.

+1 To add to this, part of the draw of Uber for me is its ubiquity (& Lyft, but it's less widespread). My consumer experience is maintained in different international & US markets.

I don't have to worry about securing local currency before I can get around -- it just uses my card (which doesn't charge a fee to convert).

I don't have to worry about not being able to explain where I'm trying to go across language barriers or various levels of familiarity with a locale -- the built-in map app works the same way in Paris, London, Prague as it does in San Francisco or Durham. The GPS features keep drivers honest as to routes and adds a (small) sense of security as you know your journey is being tracked in case something goes sideways.

All that said, LibreTaxi looks really promising & I really like the premise behind it. Maybe, some day, I'll not want the tracking features, for example. I hope it takes off!

I use cash as often as possible at small and local businesses, because then they don't have to pay the 3-5% fee to the debit/credit card processing company.

Not having to carry cash is the one main reason those apps work well. Otherwise, just call/hail a cab. Done.

Just was in an uber here in Bogota, drive says (hearsay but heard it before from Uber users) that majority are women, and safety is #1 concern. 1. Drivers of Cabs suck in the city. They drive like race car drivers and always get into accidents. 2. Harassment. Colombia being a very male dominate country women are harassed daily and cabbies are some of worst. 3. Crime. Some cabbies not all will over charge you, literally hold you hostage if you don't pay whatever fee they say (Cartagena doesn't even have meters..it's what ever the gringo price they want to charge at times). I've spent lots of time SEA, SA and some in Africa.. it's not as easy to hail a cab if your female or a foreigner, uber and rideshare systems do alleviate lots of that pain.

Here we have an alternative payment method


Byteball is the future.

I suppose it's because it takes time to implement credit card transactions securely and properly, and it could increase fare as well. Here in Southeast Asia Malaysian startup Grab have cash only first then added cards years later and just recently.

It's not particularly hard to interface with an external payment processor like PayPal, Stripe, etc.

The situation in most Asian countries is a bit different from markets like the US or Australia. Here in Australia, I use cash maybe once every two weeks, it's very rare for me to have more than $30-40 in my wallet - I often have no cash at all.

I suspect the real reason here is that credit cards aren't anonymous and are contrary to the ethos of the author here.

You can still pay by credit card, provided that both the driver and passenger agree. There are portable credit card readers that interface with smartphones.

I see where you are coming from with the cash issue, but in NYC, it's not uncommon to have to pay cash at a store, so many people carry cash.

About the trust and reputation issue, I think blockchain technologies could play an important role for decentralized services like this.

I would like to see a multipurpose reputation / trust system based on the blockchain, exposing all the needed features as a simple library and / or HTTP API, ready to be implemented by apps and websites.

I think we are still in a period where a lot of products are built either in a centralized way, or all on the blockchain and decentralized technologies (like IPFS). It makes sense as we are still in the experimentation phase, but it could change in the near future. People could start using the blockchain where it is the most efficient today, as a brick part of a product (e.g. to build a solid decentralized reputation system), instead of being the foundation layer of the product.

I think most of this "blockchain talk" is just nonsense. Uber/lyft similar are very complex services, which are pretty pain in the ass to maintain and develop. What would be the incentive to develop such an app in decentralized fashion? What if there are problems between rider and driver, who will act as a middleman to resolve issues? What about basic support etc?

> What would be the incentive to develop such an app in decentralized fashion? What if there are problems between rider and driver, who will act as a middleman to resolve issues? What about basic support etc?

Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough, but I am precisely talking about this: using the blockchain for what it is good at today, instead of trying to put everything on a decentralized system (which is really hard or just impossible for now).

Uber / Lyft and others have a reputation system in place, opaque and developed specifically for their product. It’s an important part, but it is just a brick in the complexity of the services they are building.

I am talking about replacing this brick by an open, blockchain-based reputation service (that doesn’t exist AFAIK). That way, any app developer could benefit from the transparency and guaranteed properties from the blockchain. It could even be easier to use than to implement it as a private system.

What is "the blockchain" and what built-in features does it have that can replace a purpose-built reputation system?

In this context, you can see the blockchain as a database, always available, and containing entries (transactions in blocks) that you can not delete. It’s very simplified, see the Wikipedia article [1] for more details about blockchain systems.

The specific features that I find interesting to build an “open trust system” built on top of it, compared to a traditional database, are:

- Transparency: anyone can explore this database, and verify that the software is using it in a transparent way. It might sound not important for something like Uber, but if you build an open trust system that could be used by different services, it becomes very important for authors (Uber, Lyft, etc.) to trust this system.

- Reliability: because a blockchain is distributed, it is always running and available.

- Trust: transactions are immutable and a transaction can not be falsified once confirmed (validated).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockchain_(database)

There is a problem: cryptographic solutions (like blockchain) cannot help build trust, only to maintain it. If a driver loses trust, they can just create a new private key and now they're up and running without any bad reviews again.

Very good point.

Cheaper prices for one thing.

Simply an "identity" block chain would be an amazing advancement for peer to peer services. I'd love to know if the craigslist person I was going to meet was identifiable independently.

Martti Malmi aka "Sirius" was working exactly on this [0] right after he left the Bitcoin space... I have been also interested in decentralised reputation via Ethereum, which you can implement w/o a dedicated blockchain via smart contracts (eg. [1]). IMO distributed rep would fit perfectly in a project like LibreTaxi where you don't have (or don't want to have) a centralised system...

[0] https://github.com/identifi/identifi

[1] https://medium.com/@alexberegszaszi/building-decentralized-r...

Completely disregarding the rest of the page/service/post I kinda dislike that Telegram is being touted as the most secure messenger out there. That's not even close to true. By default all that Telegram offers is transport security and afaik unaudited end-to-end encryption with their own protocol if two users choose to use it (and lock themselves into the platform they start that conversation on).

Also having to have a phone number thing to set up an account sucks (same with Signal, WhatsApp etc.).

It's definitely an interesting idea. Though one of the major features that I love about Uber/Lyft is that I don't have to worry about paying in cash.

BitCoin integration is on the way!

I know what you mean, but the Bitcoin integration is going to be really exciting!!!

If there is one thing people love to be paid in, it is a collectible whose value widely varies daily based on when its larger holders game the system or when online drug markets get shutdown.

I'm not completely sure whether you're referring to cash or Bitcoin.

How does cash vary in value? If you have a $50 bill, you can expect to buy a very predictable amount of food (for example) next week, regardless of what happens. Not so much if you have 0.0521 BTC.

There are plenty of cash currencies, aside from USD, that fluctuate wildly.

That's true, but most vary fluctuate wildly with respect to the USD, not in their purchasing power within their country of origin, even less so in the span of weeks or days.

For example, if I was paid the equivalent of a 50 USD ride in Bitcoin in Jan 4, and were to go to buy food today, I could only buy 40 dollars worth of food.

Which currency does that? Sure there may be a few examples in case of extreme inflation, etc, but it's not the norm at all.

My point is that both are flawed and have their uses.

I won't be paying any bills with Bitcoin any time soon.

Cash is liquid whereas Bitcoin is a collectible that can't be used to pay all debts. My last two points about Bitcoin's instability do not apply to cash. Cash doesn't have a few slow gatekeepers that also game the system in their favor when you go to convert your cash into a more liquid form.

It's likely/possible for the drivers to be insulated from that with something like bitpay that auto-converts to currency.

But if you auto-convert to currency then what's the point of using bitcoin at all?

Just a guess— because it's easier for LibreTaxi to implement as a free open-source project, without needing to deal with IRS, banking, & other financial bureaucracy.

Means the drivers get to have all that fun themselves instead.

They still have to file taxes and deal with banking if they get paid cash.

Bitcoin gatekeepers are slow and have delayed or altered conversions such that they profit due to fluctuations in Bitcoin value.

That's great, as long as they do it in a way that allows both me and the driver not to have to wait an hour before the transaction gets confirmed. So either someone needs to shoulder that risk or those micropayment platforms on top of Bitcoin need to start making some headway.

I hope that's sarcasm that I'm sensing.

I wouldn't want to deal with cash. That's always a pain and also insecure for both the driver and for the passenger. it should leverage some online payment (even sg. like Bitcoin)

I came here to say just that. This probably will be the biggest challenge for this app. I see that it promises future bitcoin integration, which will be a challenge by itself to be accepted by drivers and users both. I guess app could partner with an instant bitcoin to fiat processor.

Anyway, both a cool idea and a challenging one. Best wishes!


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