It's not often that I hear of a startup and think "I would love to have that in my town!," yet that's exactly what I thought when I heard about Lyft. For the unaware, Lyft is a new service in San Francisco that helps people find a ride at around 20% the cost of a taxi. In fact, payment is actually optional (though not paying at all isn't recommended - more on that in a few).
Here's how it works: you need a ride, so you fire up the Lyft app and find a nearby driver. Not a taxi driver - just a regular driver who has been checked, doubled checked, and re-checked for safety and all that other good stuff by Lyft. You let the driver know you need a ride, they come pick you up, and away you go.
The company describes the service as "your friend with a car on demand," and even encourages riders to sit up front with the driver. According to this write-up on TechCrunch, there's even "an obligatory fist bump when you first hop in, and riders can usually charge up their [phones] or pick the music in the car." That. Sounds. Awesome.
So, about payment - Lyft uses a tip-based system; as such, payment isn't required. However, there's also a rating system for both passengers and drivers. If a driver rates you badly as a passenger because you don't tip well, then you'll have a more difficult time finding a ride again. Adversely, if you tip generously, rides will come easier. Works the same way for drivers. This keeps it fair, and lets other users know what kind of passenger/driver you are.
Up till this point, the service has been in a very limited beta and available only for iPhone users. That all changes today, however, as the company has nearly doubled its fleet and released an Android application. Here's how the Android app is described in its Play Store listing:
Step 1. Download Lyft for Android
Step 2. Set your pickup location
Step 3. Request a Lyft
Step 4. Get a Lyft to your destination
Step 5. Make a donation and rate your driver for the effort
That's seriously all there is to it. This is a truly fantastic idea, and, given enough users, really could revolutionize the way people get around town. The app is completely free, so grab it if you live in the SF area. If you give it a shot, drop a comment and let us know how the experience went!