SideCar, a San Francisco company specializing in a mobile ride-sharing app that matches smartphone users who need a ride with drivers willing to give them one, said that it is expanding into the Boston market, a move that could make local taxi companies uneasy.
Launched last year and operating in such markets as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, SideCar said that it is adding Boston, Chicago, and Brooklyn to its roster of venues. SideCar made the announcement in a press release e-mailed to a Globe reporter.
During its initial phase, SideCar will be available for drivers and riders Friday and Saturday nights from 5 p.m. until 3 a.m. in Boston, Chicago, and Brooklyn, the company said in the release. Expanded hours and days will follow if the community of riders and drivers grows, the company said.
According to SideCar, its service is “a fast, affordable, and safe way to get around town, meet new people, and help keep more cars off the road. With SideCar, payment is voluntary and made directly through the mobile app. All drivers are pre-vetted for safety and are free to give rides whenever they want.’’
SideCar’s announcement comes as the operators of one of Boston’s largest cab companies filed a lawsuit earlier this week against smartphone app maker Uber Technologies Inc., which lets users request a taxi or livery service. The traditional cabbies contend the start-up is running an unlicensed car service and ignoring virtually all of the government rules that have been in place for years, a Globe story about the lawsuit reported.
Uber, along with SideCar, Hailo, and similar apps, allows customers to find, fetch, and pay for a ride — from either a taxi, livery, independent car service, or individual — with just a few touches on their smartphones. Particularly popular among young professionals for their convenience and whiz factor, these services have rattled the cab industry because they offer easy access to competing car services and don’t have the same level of overhead and oversight as taxi fleets, the Globe story noted.
In a Friday e-mail, SideCar chief executive Sunil Paul said his company’s service is different from Uber’s.
“Uber operate like taxis dispatched through smartphones,’’ Paul wrote. “That’s not what we do. SideCar is a smartphone app that instantly matches people for peer-to-peer ridesharing.’’
Paul added: “SideCar is peer-to-peer ridesharing. We match people who need a ride with regular everyday drivers willing to give them one. SideCar is safe. We run more checks on our drivers than taxi or limo services. Plus, all rides are tracked via GPS and rated by previous riders. Seventy-one percent of Sidecar riders polled recently said they felt safer in a SideCar than in a taxi. SideCar’s 10-point safety system includes license and insurance verification, detailed background checks, driver and passenger rating systems and GPS vehicle tracking features and the ability to share details of your trip with others. We believe all this provides a greater degree of security and safety than casual carpooling, traditional ridesharing, or limo and taxis.’’
Uber is being sued by Boston Cab Dispatch Inc. and EJT Management. The attorney representing Boston Cab and EJT is Sam Perkins.
“SideCar and UberX have targeted Boston to make the guy next door and his Prius into an unlicensed taxi driver with an uninspected taxis and no safety equipment,’’ Perkins said in an e-mailed statement. “Their goal is to eliminate the existing taxi system and its consumer protections.’’