Our complicated relationship with carpooling apps



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But from time to time, a mind-blowing headline makes us wonder how it became so normal to jump so quickly into the car of a stranger.

The share of Americans using carpooling services has more than doubled in the last three years. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2018, 36% of adults report using a telephone service such as Uber or Lyft, compared to 15% at the end of 2015.

"It's clear that the technology used as a mediator has created that level of trust between bikers and drivers," said Saba Waheed, director of research at UCLA's Center for Labor, whose skills include collaborative economy companies like Uber and Lyft.

But this trust comes at a price, she says.

The increase in the number of cable car services coincided with reports of violent crimes committed by drivers against passengers and revelations of disturbing business practices.

In response, companies such as Uber and Lyft are committed to prioritizing safety and working with government partners to improve driver and passenger driving conditions.

At the same time, research suggests that bad publicity and security issues have not deterred passengers from using platforms.

Why is that?

Why we stay

Uber and Lyft were part of a startups class that announced the now ubiquitous demand economy that allows us to order food, toiletries and other modern conveniences on our smartphones.

Businesses have become important during what transportation experts view as a period of "unprecedented" change in traveler behavior. Farzad Alemi, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, said Farzad Alemi, a changing economy clashing with new modes of transportation, including shared cars and bicycles.

Alemi used data from a survey of 2,400 Californian residents, including Generation Y and previous generation members, to study the factors that influence the group's popularity. His research revealed the highest adoption rates among millennials with a university degree and living alone in urban areas, motivated by ease and convenience.
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They did not necessarily abandon their cars, he said, but they used them less or combined with other modes of transportation. For those living in urban areas, it was cheaper to drive than to own a car, especially when parking fees were taken into account, he said.

The Pew survey of 2018 resulted in similar findings, with the youngest, most affluent and higher education graduates making up the largest share of users. And although the proportion of Americans using mobile phone applications has increased dramatically, few adults use them regularly, according to the Pew survey.

About 4% of adults reported using the apps on a weekly basis, with 2% using them every day or so. It's about the same as in 2015, when 3% of Americans said they were weekly runners.

In 2018, most adults reported using the operator services less than once a month.

In 2015, Pew interviewed people about their views on portering services. Among their answers:

86% say they have saved users time and stress

68% said they were cheaper than a taxi

60% said they were more reliable than a taxi or public transit

The horseback ride is not just for young people. An analysis of data from the 2017 National Household Travel Survey found that highly educated and urban-rich older adults were among those most likely to adopt stimulus services.

Often these adults have to give up their driver's licenses, especially if they have a health problem, said Suman Kumar Mitra, assistant research fellow at the UC Davis University of Transportation Studies.

Ride-hailing offers them alternatives to public transport and the need to rely on others for journeys, he said. Often, they use these services to solve what the experts call the problem of the first and last mile to get to a bus stop or train station.

Security is also a concern for this population, he said. But he assumes that the benefits of the services outweigh the safety concerns.

"It gives them the freedom to go anywhere and anytime," he said.

How the relationship could be better

Other experts agree that for many users, the utility of the service outweighs the moral or ethical disadvantages that they entail.

Rhe-saling took advantage of a lack of supervision and regulation that allowed companies to grow quickly, Waheed said. Now, cities and states are trying to catch up with some of the loopholes that gave the platforms a competitive advantage over traditional taxi companies.

To improve safety, the platforms said they were working to improve background checks and make the signage visible, so people do not get into bad cars.

Platforms share responsibility with regulators to control themselves, but consumers also have a role to play in the proliferation of the sharing economy, said Arun Sundararajan, a business professor at the Stern School of Commerce. Business of the University of New York.

It is important for consumers to remember that they do not buy a product directly at a brand, but rather at someone else in a kind of "micro-franchise" of the mark, he said. As such, one must learn to become a tech-savvy consumer, he said, offering the following tips:

Check not only the note, but the driver notices

Make sure the license plate numbers match

Make a phone call from inside the car to signal the driver that someone knows where you are.

"My mother told me not to get into the car of strangers and that we are at a point where we have a layer of digital trust that surrounds this activity," he said. "We still have to take some basic steps."

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