Pickup Pal: Thumbing a ride the 21st century way

For those wishing to cut living expenses to the bone, transportation remains a huge hurdle. For thousands of years, hitchhiking has been a convenient answer.

However, in our paranoia-driven age, thumbing a ride isn't as easy or as safe as it once was. To overcome this hurdle, a new web service, Pickup Pal, uses the power of the internet and the templates of online dating services and eBay to match up driver and passenger.

Say I wanted a lift to New York City. I'd go on Pickup Pal and fill out a form, including a snapshot, origin and destination, desired time of departure and arrival, and a bid on what I would pay.

Drivers looking to offset the cost of a trip log on and review ride request candidates. Selecting me, He/she contacts me by email to make arrangements for pickup. I pay the driver directly, and after the trip, the driver pays Pickup Pal its 7% commission through Paypal.

After I use the service, my drivers rate me as a passenger on a scale of 1-5, and I rate him, so that eventually the better drivers and passengers can be recognized.

The site gathers enough personal information to alleviate much of the concern about the person with whom I am sharing a ride, certainly a quantum leap in security beyond sticking out one's thumb and taking what comes. However, I'd still be leery if I were of a demographic that attracts the creeps in our society, because false online identities aren't impossible to create.

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