Ridesharing, or carpooling as those of a certain generation call it, sounds good in theory, but in reality, it can be an experience fraught with anxiety and frustration. Take it from one who knows — missed calls, lateness, long detours, health emergencies — you name it, something can easily go wrong with the morning pickups, and same for getting home at night. As it turns out, there’s an app for that — namely, SPLT app, courtesy of the Detroit startup SPLT,* which is designed to erase all those worries while creating new benefits.
Riding In Cars With Strangers
We stumbled across SPLT (the company and the app) on Sunday at the Techstars Mobility space, at Ford’s** kickoff event for the Detroit North American International Auto Show. If Techstars rings a bell, that’s the startup incubator/accelerator behind such luminaries as Uber and Sphero, and Techstars Mobility hooks that energy up with Ford’s rebranding as a mobility company.
A number of other ridesharing (as opposed to carsharing) apps are on the market, and popular startups like Uber and Lyft have enabled the general public to get comfortable with the idea of hopping into a strange car with a strange driver who is not attached to a brick-and-mortar livery or taxi business.
However, the element of stranger trust can still block out a fairly large part of the potential market for app-enabled ride sharing, and that’s where SPLT comes in.
Ridesharing With Familiar Faces
At the TechStar Mobility space, we had a chance to buttonhole a SPLT representative who explained the whole thing.
Rather than a focus on matching individual riders with drivers, SPLT is marketing its services to large companies through an app that operates only within the company’s employee group. For the app to achieve a minimal rate of participation, there must be a minimum of about 250 hundred employees, with 1,000 and up being ideal.
That might sound like a fairly narrow market, but there are hundreds of such companies in the US. When you add in other potential employers in government, academic institutions, healthcare facilities, and nonprofit organizations, the numbers climb even higher.
The key is that, while the participants may be spread out, they are all going to a common destination. For SPLT, that translates into an arrival-focused model, in contrast to the departure model typical of the livery industry.
One main benefit of the employer-centered approach is that participants get to ride with someone they know, or at least with someone who shares a brick-and-mortar employment connection with them.
The app-based system also reduces lateness anxiety by enabling the passenger to see exactly where their ride is.
With the employer on board, SPLT can also offer additional benefits such as bonuses for great participants, a monthly reimbursable emergency ride from Uber or Lyft if the ride share is not unavailable, and forgiveness for lateness related to ride sharing.
Employers can also offer the potential for monetizing the driver’s car during working hours, as part of a carsharing network.
Seen through the lens of a human resources benefit such as onsite child care or wellness coaching, companies that offer ridesharing could offer a “mobility coach” to encourage employees to get on board.
SPLT’s experience so far is that the SPLT app can boost an employer’s carsharing participation from 0% to 3% with relative ease, with the potential of up to 15 percent in the US.
In other countries where the person-to-car attachment is not as emotional as in the US, the percentage can grow much higher.
By the way, while 3% might not sound like much, it’s a huge deal for companies that are taking action to reduce carbon emissions related to employee transportation. Unlike other ride sharing services, SPLT takes cars off the road. It has the traditional carpool at heart, where the driver shares a destination with the rider instead of continually searching for new passengers.
We’re thinking that after SPLT cements itself as the go-to app for large employers, it could also be applied over time to other circumstances where large numbers of people share a common destination. That could include park-and-ride mass transit lots, for example.
Meanwhile, here’s a tease in advance of Ford’s Monday press conference, during which the company will unveil a new… something. If you catch this post before the press conference, put your guess down in the comment thread.
Image Credits: top (screenshot) via Split, bottom photo at NAIAS 2016 by Tina Casey.
*An earlier version of this post confused SPLT with a similarly named startup. Apologies for the error!
**CleanTechnica is attending NAIAS Detroit as a guest of Ford. Thanks, guys!