THE BLOG
10/22/2012 12:00 pm ET Updated Dec 19, 2012

Transformational Transportation - The Rideshare Revolution

Yesterday, I joined the rideshare revolution. Today I'm writing about it. I downloaded this app on my iPhone and took three short car trips yesterday courtesy of SideCar, a San Francisco-based ridesharing company that connects people who need a ride with drivers already on the road. Simply put, it's a reinvention of carpooling through smartphone technology.

SideCar, founded by visionary cleanweb venture capitalist Sunil Paul, is only available in San Francisco at this time.

According to the company, the drivers "are regular people with extra space in their cars and a willingness to give others a ride." I rode shotgun with an unemployed gentleman who likes to meet new people, a waitress who was on her way to work, and a guy whose entry into law school was deferred for a year who likes to see the City. I had engaging conversations with each driver and got to where I was going on-time and with ease. This app delivers on the promise technology has to offer.

Despite my appreciation for the service, Paul's business model and those of its competitors are being questioned by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which recently issued cease and desist letters to SideCar and its competitors (Lyft and Tickengo).

In talking about the challenge, Paul struck a hopeful tone. "Regulators need to value and encourage innovation," adding that he remains committed to working with the CPUC and state legislators to craft a solution. SideCar's refreshingly candid blog took it one step further. "We feel that now is an important time to call attention to the larger question of how well our current regulatory structure is allowing technological and social innovation to thrive."

So let's talk about it. Is this an issue where regulators are thumbing their nose at technological innovation in favor of entrenched interests, or is this a case of business flouting the current laws on the books? As with most things in the modern world, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

Clearly, there is a role for government in issues such as this, but we need to figure out the best role; one that looks out for consumers' well-being and allows innovation and choices to flourish. That's why Paul's approach is correct. Conversation and collaboration between regulators and innovators will create the appropriate environment for a resolution, one that will inevitably lead to further iterations of creative innovation, greater convenience for consumers, more economic benefit for our job seekers and businesses, and the likelihood of the appropriate application of laws.

In our 21st Century society, I'll be cautiously optimistic that a well-intentioned CPUC will recognize the value dynamic new smartphone apps such as SideCar bring to the table. By encouraging future technological advancement, regulators can pave the way for the avoidance of what Paul calls the "regulatory overhang." By working together in this fashion, nobody will fall off the cliff.