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These days, it’s hard to imagine a time where ridesharing didn’t exist. But the fact that it’s made the impact that it has in the short 5-10 years that it’s been around, only shows how disruptive it’s been since its introduction into the transportation industry.

Getting an Uber or Lyft has become a normal part of many people’s everyday commute to and from work, as well as the go-to plan for getting home, especially when that weekend party runs a little too late (we’ve all been there!). Ridesharing apps have been a welcomed addition to the community, especially for city folks looking to get around in a service other than public transportation.

But where is it all headed? As the automotive industry continues to push for smarter, technologically savvy cars and mobile developers continue to level up user experiences on their platforms, the future of ridesharing looks promising. But before we look into where it’s going, let’s appreciate where it is and where it came from.

Woman hailing rideshare vehicle that she ordered through her rideshare app.

What Is Ridesharing?

Ridesharing is a means of transportation in which multiple people use the same vehicle to get to the same or similar destinations. While this may also include sharing taxis and other forms of carpooling, ridesharing is most popularly anchored through some sort of mobile app (such as Uber or Lyft) where the user inputs their destination into their device and the nearest available vehicle will come to pick them up and take them to their desired destination.

A Brief History on Ridesharing

It’s perhaps a little tricky to pinpoint where it all began, but it’s safe to say that the concept of ridesharing — literally sharing a ride with others — emerged during the times when carriages and vehicles started hitting the streets. After that, it was the emergence of taxis in the early 1900s when they first made their debut. In the decades to follow, there was a push to make ridesharing a more effective service, but prior to the launch of mobile apps — all efforts still seemed pretty archaic.

It wasn’t until the late 2000s did the industry start to revolutionize itself. Uber first emerged in 2009, followed by Lyft and other ridesharing platforms after developers started to see the demand for the service. Effective marketing and customer incentives such as free ride credits and discounts truly drove popularity, especially in the early days. Even offering bonuses to new rideshare drivers to get involved helped make the concept of ridesharing appealing to everyone. Similar promos and tactics are used to this day which have helped drive a strong number of users on each platform and drive competition amongst them.

Popularity Of Ridesharing

While there are a number of ridesharing apps on the market these days, the top two that continue to dominate the industry include Uber and Lyft. Since their humble beginnings back in 2009, Uber now has about 75 million users in 65 different countries world day and on average, complete about 14 million rides per day. Lyft who joined the ridesharing game in 2012, has about 23 million users on the platform across North America and does about 1 million trips a day. With numbers like these, there’s no question that ridesharing is popular option amongst users all over the world.

But what’s contributed to this popularity? Here’s what has contributed to the ridesharing boom:

Affordability – by now it’s no secret, between all the transportation options, ridesharing apps have been able to disrupt the industry and make a name for itself by making themselves the more affordable option compared to taxis. According to 2017 data from Certify, here were the average costs of Uber, Lyft and taxi rides in the United States:

  • Average Uber cost: $25.73
  • Average Lyft cost: $19.20
  • Average taxi cost: $29.52

Of course these numbers depend on the level of ridesharing service, geographical location, distance and whether or not you have promos to apply to your ride. But again, in a time where every dollar matters — many choose to go with Uber or Lyft thanks to affordability.

Convenience – In terms of pricing, nothing will ever beat the price of public transportation. So don’t riders just stick to that? Public transportation typically adheres to a set schedule and pick-up time around specific service routes. Not to mention the fact that after a certain hour, public transportation is no longer available. Ridesharing on the other hand is available anytime, so long as there are drivers in your area — and if you live in a major city, it’s likely that this is not an issue. For those who use ridesharing apps, a vehicle come to you at the time you want and pick you up and drop you off exactly where you want to go.

Accountability – There’s a good level of accountability with ridesharing services which helps ensure passenger safety and customer satisfaction. All drivers that work under ridesharing platforms have profiles and star ratings so riders know exactly who to expect when they’re being picked up and the level of service they can get. With customer service options all linked through the app, it also makes it easier to report any issues with the driver or user experience. Unlike taxis or public transportation, if you have an issue you either have to write down the driver or vehicle numbers and report your issue separately either through an online form or customer service line. Depending on the situation, you may not be able to grab those details in time but with ridesharing, everything you need to know is right in the palm of your hand.

Cash-free – Whether you’re riding on public transportation or taking a taxi, whether it’s at the beginning or end of your ride — there’s always that awkward moment where you have to rummage through your bag and whip out your transportation pass, debit/credit card or spare change in order to pay for the ride. Ridesharing completely eliminates the fuss as it charges directly on your mobile app which is either connected to your bank account or debit or credit card.

More Jobs – While ridesharing is hugely popular amongst riders, the demand wouldn’t be able to be kept if it weren’t for the drivers that voluntarily enlist themselves to work for these platforms. According to statistics, there are 3.9 million drivers working under Uber while another 1.4 million work for Lyft. The success experienced by ridesharing companies is definitely credited to the appeal it has for drivers. Each platform gives them the ability to work at their convenience and schedule, making it a highly popular side gig. Drivers also have the potential to earn upwards of $25 (before expenses!) and hour depending on how often they work and whether they work during peak times.

Thanks to its affordability, user-friendly platform and overall convenience, ridesharing has blown up in popularity in the last decade.

What Will Ridesharing Look Like In The Future?

The state of ridesharing today will be nothing compared to where it’s expected to go in the years to come. The industry is highly dependent on the changes in the automotive world, so whatever big innovations are expected to come — expect that to seep into ridesharing sector as well.

Here’s what the future has in store:

The Rise Of Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are coming in the very near future, and once they hit the market — it will certainly disrupt the way rideshare programs work. AVs will eventually eliminate the need to have drivers at all which can accomodate for more riders and give platforms the opportunity to earn more money because of that.

More Affordable Options

While there’s a lot of chat about Uber and Lyft, there are still many ridesharing apps on the come-up and others destined to make their mark in the years to come. With AVs set to come into the picture, it’s expected that it’ll even out the playing field amongst competitors who will then have to look for more creative ways to attract riders onto their specific platforms. Much like the way they started, riders can expect to see more and more rider incentives. And just the way ridesharing apps were able to undercut taxis on pricing, they may begin to undercut each other, and set more affordable rates than they have before. Because of this, it will certainly be a riders paradise in the years to come.

The Introduction Of Subscription Services

Much like Netflix and Spotify, ridesharing apps are expected to be available through a subscription based services. Imagine paying one monthly fee and being able to order Ubers or Lyfts as often as you want, whenever you want. Imagine heading off to work and having your rideshare vehicle meet you outside your home every morning at the same time everyday. This sort of convenience is expected to come into the picture into the not-so-distant future.

Sophisticated Vehicles

AVs are one thing, but other in-car features are expected to roll over into the industry as well that’s set to truly enhance the riding experience. A great example of this is the Bosch’s 2019 concept autonomous shuttle, ideal for ridesharing. The box shaped vehicle maximizes space for passengers and features floor to ceiling windows to give passengers scenic views on their destination. The vehicle is also envisioned to include infotainment options and on-board wifi so passengers can either get work done while they’re on the road or catch up on their favourite shows.

In addition to that, the vehicle would possess impressive navigation skills and in-car sensors that would be able to tell passengers if they’ve forgotten something in the vehicle or whether or not it’s safe to exit the vehicle. What if the vehicle needs to get fueled up? The car’s technology will allow it to pull itself over and drive itself to a nearby service station to make sure it gets everything it needs before it hits the road again to pick up the next set of passengers.

While this is only just a concept vehicle, similar ideas and models are coming down the pipeline and will no doubt revolutionize the industry yet again.

The Future Is Closer Than We Think

It would have been hard to predict 15-20 years ago, especially before the implementation of mobile apps, the sort of success ridesharing would have on the commute and transportation industry. And frankly, it’s not going anywhere — people will continue to use these services where they see fit. But what will change is the technology and the types of vehicles used on the road that will elevate the ridesharing experience. While it might seem like lightyears away, mark our words — the future is closer than you think. Tell us, what are you most excited about?