With the economy pushing people to get creative and efficient with their resources, some are seeing extra seats in their car as opportunities to make a few extra dollars.
A European carpooling forum called BlablaCar announced Tuesday that it scooped up $10 million from Accel Partners and existing investors to grow the car-sharing service. ISAI and Cabiedes & Partners also participated in the round that brings the company's total funding to near $12.5 million.
BlablaCar allows users to register their car and the trips that they plan on taking then other members that intend to be passengers can search and contact drivers that are making the same trips that you are interested in taking.
While being a member of the service is free, drivers can charge a fixed price per passenger -- which tends to average near €20 per ride. Passengers can choose to pay via BlablaCar’s online booking system or directly in the car.
BlablaCar is only available in the UK, France (Covoiturage.fr) and Spain (Comuto.es) -- at least so far -- but the funding will help them expand the service to mor areas in Europe.
BlablaCar has approximately 1.6 million users, with 400,000 drivers offering empty seats and a ride for a fee. The company estimates that users have communally travelled one billion miles and at least 8 million passengers have been transported since the company launched in 2009.
In an age where the average car carries just 1.2 people, BlablaCar’s ambition is to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles by rationalising people’s use of cars.
"Our service is redefining the way people use their car and travel," Nicolas Brusson, COO of BlablaCar said in a statement. "The majority of our users are buying unused car seats for journeys of 100 miles, a much cheaper alternative than the train or airplane and representing on average a 70% discount."
CEO Frederic Mazzella created this service as more of a travel site rather than one that is used as a daily commuter assistant.
Users are rated on the site, to assist in credibility and accountability, and members with negative ratings are removed from the service.
BlablaCar is similar to some of the ride-sharing companies founded in the US such as Ridejoy and ZimRide.
Back in August 2010, ZimRide raised $1.2 million in seed funding from Floodgate, K9 Ventures, and various angels. Since then, Zimride has grown its user base to more than 120 university and business networks and has helped coordinate over 26,000 carpools by September 2011. The company announced last fall that it raised an additional $6 million in a Series A round of funding led by The Mayfield Fund, with participation from Floodgate and K9 Ventures, bringing its total raised to $7.5 million.
The average ride through ZImride is 175 miles -- there are even several multi-day cross-country trips that pop up, including one that was going for $125 a seat (drivers can set the prices for their seats).
As airfare continues to nickel and dime travelers, we may see an even bigger demand for sites that help people band together to make getting to their desired destination even easier.