Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Gamifying ridesharing: why do it?

I'm doing a PhD researching this question: "Gamifying ridesharing: how can gamification be used to improve participation in ridesharing services?". The outcome of the research will be an actual ridesharing service used by real people (I've already started the experiment).

Ridesharing is another word for carpooling ('carpooling' is now getting confused with 'carsharing'). The basic scenario is where two or more people are going to the same place and rather than taking separate cars, they hop in together and share the ride (and potentially share the petrol costs).

Ridesharing is big (but not in Australia)
Ridesharing is a big deal in the US and Europe. The number of people ridesharing is trending up (mainly because of fuel prices but also potentially because of a growing acceptance of collaborative consumption). Companies are cashing in - four startups have raised over $20 million in recent years: Avego ($5.6 mill), ZimRide ($6 mill), RideJoy ($1.2 mill), BlaBlaCar ($12 million).

Yet in Australia, ridesharing has got very little traction. Only 7.6% of people rideshare in Australia compared to 12.6% in the US (2001 stats). A likely reason for this is that Australia's economy is doing relatively well, so people can afford to waste money by driving alone. There is a strong inverse correlation between personal income and ridesharing: the more money people have, the less likely they are to rideshare.

Mainstreaming ridesharing
The challenge for my research group is how can we encourage people to rideshare when many people aren't particularly comfortable about having others in their car?

This is where gamification could potentially come in. Gamification is feted as one of the biggest trends by Gartner research, who reckon that 70% of the world's top companies will use at least one gamified app by 2014.

What is gamification?
Gamification is the idea of turning real life into a game to encourage behaviour change. A good example is Nike+ a site where people can share how far they run each day and get encouragement (earn points, 'level up', praise from other players) to run further. Millions of people now use the website and the little doover you can stick in your running shoes to get semi-accurate data on running distance and pace (ref).

Why use gamification?
The promise of gamification is to shift attitudes and change behaviours. This is particularly relevant for ridesharing where negative attitudes towards ridesharing are a key reason why more people aren't doing it.

How do we gamify ridesharing?
This is the big question for my thesis. I will begin the answer in my next post:

Designing a gamification strategy for the ridesharing market.

No comments: