long as there have been ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, there have been apps that help riders compare fares and travel times. These aggregator apps allow riders to survey all the services in an area and check prices and wait times—an efficient version of what many do already. There are always fresh versions of these apps popping up. The newest one, Bellhop, officially launched in New York this week.
Bellhop allows prospective riders to compare 17 services offered by four companies—Uber, Lyft, Juno, and Curb—in New York, with plans to add more services and expand to more cities soon. “There are too many ride-sharing apps and you don’t have transparency to make decisions,” CEO and cofounder Payam Safa told me—and he’s right. Pull Bellhop up on a Tuesday morning in July, and it will tell you that the cheapest way to get to the New York public library from my home on the Upper West Side is Lyft’s carpool product. The fastest is Juno, as there’s a car just one minute away.
Figuring that out on my own would take minutes of toggling back and forth between ride-share apps (and likely drumming up my fare in the meantime). With Bellhop, those calculations took less than a minute.
Figuring that out on my own would take several minutes of toggling back and forth between ride-share apps. With Bellhop, those calculations took less than a minute.
Bellhop is just the most recent service to try and forge this problem into a business opportunity. Whipster, which was started by a Florida IT consultant and aggregates bikeshares and public transportation options as well as ride shares, launched officially last February. The oldest and most established is the Boston-based team behind RideGuru, which began as a taxi fare finder in 2006, three years before Uber launched. Add to that a list of abandoned attempts, ghost apps, and failed startups that includes: PriceRide, Ride Fair, Ridescout, Urbanhail, and Corral Rides, among others. (Corral Rides switched strategies, relaunching as a carpool app called Hitch that sold to Lyft in 2014.)
Several of the startups that publish these apps, including both Bellhop and RideGuru, attempt to make money by striking deals with the ride-sharing companies to promote their services in exchange for affiliate fees, the same way that hotels pay Kayak or Expedia when a prospective traveler books through the platform. Most of the apps reach their estimates through algorithms that factor in published rates, distance, and time traveled. Many also rely on the programming tools, or APIs, that ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft make available to developers. But accurately predicting prices has become trickier in the past year, according to RideGuru founder and CEO Ippei Takahashi, as Uber has rolled out a new upfront pricing structure. The companies also offer promotions and discounts for which aggregators can’t account. (For example: Uber has given me a 50% discount on my first 10 rides this week, so Bellhop’s estimates for the service are wrong.)