Carma – Carpooling

It’s becoming rather clear that a market exists for alternatives to the traditional modes of transportation currently available in large metropolitan cities: personal cars, public transportation, taxis, bikes, etc. This market seemed to first be explored by Uber – the alternative to the cab. Since Uber, we’ve also seen on-demand car services such as Car2Go and ZipCar emerge. Most recently, another niche market has popped up in this industry: the rideshare. Companies such as Lyft and Sidecar have made a name for themselves in this space with cheaper fares than cabs and creative marketing campaigns.

Enter Carma, who takes a different approach to a similar market as the rideshare companies. Carma is a carpooling service that helps to connect drivers and riders going to similar locations connect and share the costs. Carma differentiates itself from the rideshare companies in its pricing. For a comparable ride, it’s much cheaper to use Carma than either Lyft of Sidecar. In this sense, it’s going after a different customer – especially from the driver-side of the equation. If you become a driver for Lyft or Sidecar, you are essentially a private taxi. You are taking time out of your schedule to help transport people from point A to point B. This is not the Carma strategy. If it were, it wouldn’t be worth the driver’s time. For example, a ride from Capitol Hill to the University of Washington via Carma is only $3:50. By the time this price get’s divided up and into the driver’s pocket well, it’s not paying the bills, let’s just say that. However, that’s ok; that’s who Carma is going after. The driver that benefits from Carma is that commuter who thinks to herself: “I might as well recoup some of these costs if I have to drive anyway”. This is different than the driver for Lyft, who isn’t necessarily driving from one destination to another, but rather are simply “for hire”. Carma attempts to reach both types of customers with essentially the same approach: if you’re going to have to make this trip anyway, why not save some money and make it together. The target rider for Carma is someone without a car and probably with a limited income to spend on transportation.

Another component of Carma that differentiates itself from the others in the industry is that Carma is also a provider of software, hardware, and professional services. By using GPS, web, and mobile technologies, Carma’s real-time information systems make seat capacity known and available to passengers, provide convenient ticket purchasing options, and enable extensive reporting capabilities. In other words, it is also pursuing enterprise clients in some of the larger geographic areas in which it exists.


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