iPhone "Pick Me Up"

By David Needle

September 15, 2008

New ridesharing service from Mapflow uses iPhones to connect drivers with riders.

Consumer products and services took center stage on Wednesday at the wrap-up to last week's DEMO conference. Here's a quick look at two of them.

Does Mapflow have the answer to the high cost of gas, boring commutes and traffic jams? Doubtful, but the company is at least taking a whack at providing a partial solution.

And while it's addressing a serious issue, Mapflow showed it has a sense of humor. Mapflow's executive chairman and co-founder Sean O'Sullivan, who could easily pass for a young Gene Wilder, had a few of the funniest lines of the conference. He appeared on stage with a gift bag he said contained a gadget the company had been working on for a couple of years that will dramatically expand worker's commute options. "It's called the iPhone," he deadpanned.

After a few chuckles from the audience, he followed with: "Sorry, we all know the iPhone was invented by Al Gore!"

What Mapflow has actually invented is a service that works with the iPhone. As O'Sullivan explained: "So inside the iPhone we have two hard working midgets…"

Mapflow demonstrator also onstage: "Widgets, I told you, they're widgets."

But seriously, what Mapflow has developed is a service called Avego (pronounced a-vay-go), designed to pair passengers and driver through their mobile devices. The driver needs an iPhone to run Avego's "shared transport" application.

In a video, the company showed how a driver could check into the "shared transport community" from an iPhone while the coffee's brewing from home, check off where they're headed and be available to pick up a rider.

Prices for the rider are preset by Avego based on distance, and the driver gets the bulk of the money electronically, with Mapflow taking a small cut. Those looking for a ride can match up with drivers at Avego's site using a mobile client.

The registration process is also part of a prescreening process to help insure the communication is real and safe. You can also set up a more limited range or network; only people from your company, for example. A driver interested in taking a rider along activates the service, which then looks for a match and sends a notification if one is found. The iPhone's GPS also helps guide the driver to the pickup spot.

After the ride you can even rate your passenger. During the demo, a Mapflow official joked, "That guy was a bit weird. I'll give him one star and hope I never seem him again."

"The value of a wasted seat on a daily commute adds up to about $3,000 per year," O'Sullivan said. "This is an alternative to throwing that money out the window."

For the rest of this story at InternetNews.com, click here.

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