[…] 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...
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.
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.
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.
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).
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! :)
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.
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.
But maybe, yeah..
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.
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.
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.
debit cards are electronic cash.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How about Venezuela then ?
All currencies, all are as volatile as can be.
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.
Source: lived under a hyperinflation of 1900%/year and people did not switch currencies.
Didn't realize how dire the listing situation was there
m-pesa is a good start, at the least.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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. 
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.
 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
He was never a taxi driver - he's a retired teacher.
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.
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...
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.
Other justifications are: having company, decreasing your carbon footprint.
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.
Spain (I know this from a Friend): Pretty harsh regulations, no Uber at all.
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
(I have been using the service for years)
However, when I was using the service it was quite common to get the drivers number and contact them directly for the "next" time.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Men are overwhelmingly the majority of victims of stranger violence and robberies.
But... evolution dictates that we care more for women than for men.
And if these certificates can be created ad-hoc, then you can always create a new one if you get a zero star review.
There's no way you could reasonably expect a rideshare service to eliminate all such incidents.
let the trailblazers get axed and eventually the trust ratings will build up on the non-murderers.
then they can use it.
A blockchain-based rating system could be the killer app here.
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?
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.
But you cannot deny that some kind of check is better than no checks at all.
A one-way check is better than nothing though.
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).
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.
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 + (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.
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.
In Vietnam it's the norm to have a smartphone but it's seriously difficult to get hold of a normal debit/credit card.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
 https://www.bundesbank.de/Redaktion/EN/Downloads/Publication... [PDF]
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.
Singapore, Netherlands, France and Sweden are way ahead (~60%). I'm a bit surprised that the US is only 45% cashless.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
I know what you mean, but the Bitcoin integration is going to be really exciting!!!
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.
I won't be paying any bills with Bitcoin any time soon.
Anyway, both a cool idea and a challenging one. Best wishes!