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An Uber for Ubers: App Compares Ride-Hailing Prices

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Uber, Lyft, Gett and other ride-hailing apps famously "disrupted" the taxi industry and made it easier than ever to catch a ride. Now PriceRide is trying to shake things up by letting users compare their prices in one place.

Sam Spearin got the idea for PriceRide after getting hit with Uber's surge pricing. Normal rates can skyrocket by as much as seven times during nights like New Year's Eve and Halloween. (Uber offered free rides in Sydney in December after people complained about getting hit with surge pricing during the city's recent hostage crisis).

Not every app-based car service has the same pricing structure. To compare prices, most people would have to open Uber and Lyft separately. PriceRide (which for now is invite-only) aggregates the nearby services in one place and lets the users choose a car based on how far away it is and how much the ride would cost.

"What's not to like about getting the absolute lowest price on a ride?" Spearin said. "You have got companies like Kayak doing the same thing with the airline industry, so why wouldn't we do it with other forms of transportation?"

He is not the first one to think along these lines. Corral Rides tried to do something similar in 2013 in San Francisco before it became the carpooling service Hitch, which was eventually bought by Lyft. Ridescout gives a breakdown of travel times and costs for nearly every form of transportation, including walking, biking, and ride-hailing apps like Sidecar and Flywheel. (Uber and Lyft are not included as options).

Spearin is building something similar. His free iOS app is still in the testing phase, so it's available by invite only. But his aim is to include all of the major app-based car services, as well as public transportation options, so that people can simply pick a destination, get an estimate, and click to book their ride.

PriceRide
PriceRide

So what do Uber and Lyft think about this new app?

Uber declined to comment for this article. Lyft did not return requests for comment. But the terms of use for Uber's API does seem like it might conflict with PriceRide's mission:

You may not use the Uber API or Uber Data in any manner that is competitive to Uber or the Uber Services, including in connection with any application, website or other product or service that also includes, features, endorses, or otherwise supports in any way a third party that provides services competitive to Uber’s products and services, in our sole discretion.

Lyft does not have a public API, so it's hard to know where it stands on the matter. Still, it's easy to see why a ride-hailing app might not want its prices listed against those of competitors, especially when they are providing a very similar service.

"While the idea is good, it might be too early for something like this," Thilo Koslowski, vice president and lead automotive analyst at research firm Gartner, told NBC News.

Right now, people think of flights as commodities, he said, which is why airlines have accepted Kayak, even if they don't love the idea of having their prices compared.

That hasn't happened with ride-hailing apps yet, he said. People still think of summoning "an Uber" instead of just a car service.

"Consumers still associate these on-demand transportation services with the one app that they have on their phone," he said. "That is exactly why Uber and others don't want something like this to happen now. They don't want to be seen as commodities."

That could change in the future if an aggregator becomes popular. Spearin is hoping the same free market mentality that helped Uber and Lyft grow their business can help his grow as well.

"It's in the best interest of the consumer," he said. "We want to provide them with different ride options and give them the lowest possible price."

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