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What Carpoolers Really Want

Who will build the great disruptive carpooling app of the 21st century?
Why aren't there more cars in that HOV lane?
Why aren't there more cars in that HOV lane? Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo

During World War II, workers knew that carpooling was a patriot’s way to the office. “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler,” one government promo poster famously declared. By the 1960s and mid-1970s, one in five employed Americans (mostly men) hitched rides with fellow-workers on their way to the office or factory.

After the 1980s, as fuel prices declined and workplace trends shifted, carpooling began to lose favor—currently, only about 9 percent of commuters are sharing the ride. But this fading mode has been primed to make a technology-fueled comeback. Apps like Carma, Carzac, Duet, Muv, and Scoop have been building small carpool communities in various U.S. cities, all with slightly different strategies for handling rider-to-driver matches and payments. Both Waze and Lyft have launched their own peer-to-peer twists on ride-sharing over the past year, and Uber has begun piloting a similar service in China, which could very well translate stateside.