Give Me a Ride: Users, Uses and the Potentials of Dynamic Ridesharing

Give Me a Ride: Users, Uses and the Potentials of Dynamic Ridesharing


Dirk Heinrichs, DLR Instititute of Transport Research, Susanne Thomaier, TU Berlin, Institute of Urban and Regional Planning, Roman Parzonka


The paper explores potentials of new ridesharing services. Based on empirical research, it clarifies who are the users, the uses, factors that promote or hinder a wider take up and implications for the future design of mobility services.


Sharing of goods and services seems to develop into a common social practice. The reasons that explain this trend are convincing: a more efficient and intense use of available capacities promises economic and ecological benefits and allows the use of resources and material good without the need to necessarily own them. The car has a particularly high potential for shared use. Low occupancy rates and limited duration of use provide an opportunity for owners/drivers of vehicles to minimize their costs, while offering an inexpensive, convenient and flexible service for travelers who do not own a vehicle. Several schemes have emerged over the past decades that offer the shared use of vehicles. Some forms of them like car sharing clubs or car sharing agencies exist already for several decades. They have recently been complemented by a wide range of new forms that use the application of information and communication technology, for example the dynamic real time matching of ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ for sharing a ride.
Since many of these most recent ridesharing schemes are relatively new on the market, there is yet limited knowledge about for whom, for what purpose and why ridesharing is mobility option. With its focus on Germany, this paper closes the gap. It provides answers to a set of questions: Who are users and their uses? What factors motivate and explain their ridesharing practice? What are the key factors that promote or hinder a wider take up of this mobility practice? How may this define the future development of ride sharing?
To explore these questions, the paper combines different methodological steps. A review of the few existing available studies establishes a state-of-the-art about current services, users, uses and the motives of ride sharers. It complements this review with a quantitative analysis of data from the German mobility panel to establish – to the extent possible - current quantity and patterns of ridesharing. Focus group discussions with users of the ridesharing platforms flinc and Match Rider and with non-users deepen this knowledge with respect to three key questions: what explains decision of users, how do users evaluate the service regarding strengths and weaknesses, and what prevents the use of a sharing service. Qualitative interviews with ridesharing providers and a delphi survey with experts complements the user perspective. It delivers a structured assessment of success factors that define the diffusion potential of ridesharing. The focus groups, the interviews and the delphi survey will be carried out in February and March 2016.
First results indicate that ridesharing users are mainly between 18-35 years old, in case of business-to-business (B2B) services we also find older users. The very decisive factors from a user’s point of view are a critical amount of ride offers and requests as well as trust and reliability. Both can be achieved by B2B-strategies and by focusing on confined regions. Ridesharing on trips up to 100 km is predominantly used for travelling to work and as an alternative to public transport in polycentric regions. Hence, most future potential is perceived in polycentric regions and in rural areas, where public transport offers limited options for users. Integrating ridesharing and public transport offers promising prospects but also involves various institutional challenges.
Based on the results of the survey the paper offers a concluding statement on the potential of ridesharing to assume a more visible role for meeting mobility demand in future and the implications for the design of mobility services.


Association for European Transport