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HindustanTimes Sun,26 Oct 2014
High-tech riders
Tithiya sharma
September 25, 2010
First Published: 23:14 IST(25/9/2010)
Last Updated: 23:15 IST(25/9/2010)

Live in New Delhi? Work in Gurgaon? Live in Vasai and work in Nariman Point? You’re probably spending upwards of ten hours a week driving to work and back. You’re most likely alone in the car. As are thousands of others lined bonnet to bumper on the jammed roads.

The faces of your co-commuters reflecting the despair and angst you feel yourself. The odd road rage incident aside, most seem to have resigned to their fate. That’s the way things are, you see.

If folks like Sean O’Sullivan have their way, things can and will change for the better. Tucked away in an isolated office complex in the outskirts of a small Irish town called Kinsale, Sean and his team are working on ideas to help people travel fast, cheap and green.

As managing director of Avego, Sean leads a multi-cultural team that’s enabling ‘on-demand real-time ridesharing’. One of their products (currently in ‘Launch and Learn’ mode) is a free iPhone app called ‘Shared Transport’.

The application connects drivers with spare seats in their cars to people looking for a ride along a similar route. Free from the rigidity of car-pooling, drivers can choose riders they’d be comfortable with, on routes and schedules that suit them. There is a rating system for both parties, enough information shared to ‘size up’ your prospective ride and rider and designated pick-up/drop-off points to ensure a smooth and convenient ride share.

At the end of the journey, Avego charges the rider on a predetermined, per mile rate. Eighty fiver per cent of that fare goes straight to the driver and the rest to Avego.

Apart from lowering the transport cost, tools such as this application, help decrease the social cost of single occupancy vehicles- lesser traffic congestion and CO2 emissions and decreased dependency on shrinking fuel resources.

Responding to concerns that people wouldn’t want to share personal space with strangers due to safety concerns, Sean says, “You’re far safer with a user of this application than on most public transport. We have detailed information about all our users, including credit card and billing information and their location.”

The success of this application lies in gathering critical mass. Sean knows that asking people to make a lifestyle change is never easy. “If you have a great idea, you need to give it time, you might not be able to change the world in a year or two… but you can in twenty.”

Sean’s enterprising spirit and desire to constantly improve things for the better took him to war-ravaged Iraq in 2003. He went there with the belief that he could engage the Iraqi’s to rebuild their country. He established ‘JumpStart International’ to engage the community in ‘income-generating, community-building’ projects. In a matter of months, JumpStart was employing thousands of Iraqis. The organisation continued to work despite threats, kidnapping and even the death of a key member of the team. JumpStart has since reached out to support communities in difficult situations across Africa and the Middle East.

Sean’s enthusiasm and optimism are infectious; he’s an idealist and a doer. All the naysayers with their doomsday theories have been unable to shake his conviction. I left our meeting feeling enthused and hopeful- it really is an idealist’s world that we should all aspire to live in.

I counted 27 cars with single occupancy on my way back to from Kinsale to Cork...  Hopefully someday, there’ll be half as many cars with twice as many passengers in them.


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