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February 10, 2015

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App promoting car pool out of city find backers despite risks

A SMARTPHONE application that is promoting share-a-ride during the hectic Spring Festival holiday period may have its takers but the Shanghai Transport Commission has deemed it illegal while expressing concerns over risks involved.

Huang Xiaoyong, a commission spokesperson, said if a driver charges for a ride without having an operative license it will be considered illegal. Moreover, Huang warned if the vehicles were involved in accidents the commission will not be able to protect any of the parties involved.

Over 8,000 non-Shanghainese car owners in the city have signed up for the “Drive Home Together” campaign which encourages car owners to make the trip in a single car or offer rides to those without a car heading in the same direction. The activity was launched by Chelun, a smartphone application for car owners around the country.

Jiang Shushuang, general manager of the app operator Shanghai Carlink Internet Service Co Ltd, said the idea was to encourage mutual support and communication among its users rather than create an illegal business.

“We don’t know how many people will get free rides or who benefits from the campaign,” Jiang said. “Mutual trust is a key factor here. That is why we encourage users to communicate with each other before sharing a ride.”

Jiang said app users are asked to upload information like departure and arrival city, departure time and the number of seats available in the vehicle.

There are chat groups where car owners can work out an economical travel plan by sharing the car, or by finding companions for the trip. Those who don’t own a car are also encouraged to sign up and find a ride for their trips.

Jiang insisted that the idea was to encourage car owners to give a hand to people who find it hard to get a train or a flight ticket, or simply make friends and have fun on the journey.

“I’ll be happy to offer free rides,” Tian Dongcheng, a car owner, told Shanghai Daily. Tian is from Lianyungang in Jiangsu Province. He has joined the campaign and already found companions who will drive home together two days before the Chinese New Year.

Another car owner Huang Dashi said he has been offering rides to people for the last two years even before the introduction of the app.

Huang, who hails from Hubei Province, said those who plan to share a car will meet up before the trip. “It is a 15-hour ride to Huangshi. Earlier it was just me and my wife on the long trip. The journey can be more interesting if there are more people with us.”

Huang said he already knew the people who will be traveling with him as they did the trip together before.

Tian said he was aware of the danger involved but was still willing to give it a try.

Shanghai Carlink Internet Service Co Ltd said it had reached deals with sponsors including an insurance company. Jiang said car owners will receive a free car checkup and an insurance, said to be worth 160,000 yuan (US$25,600) per person, to cover the trip.


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