I found this article on cnet.com about a new technology start-up, Flinc, being pitched at this years Demo Spring Conference in Silicon Valley.

The concept is this:

Flinc users A, B, C, D, and E all have this app on their smart phone. Ideally, there would be hundreds of people using this app in each city on a daily basis. A user can either be a passenger or a driver, depending on how they set their status, which can be changed throughout the day, depending on if you need a ride or if you’re looking to pick up another user.

If you are a user, you input your destination, and based on your vicinity, other users will be able to decide if you are on their way. They can pick you up, for a fee, and drop you off where you need to go. The driver makes a quick buck, you don’t spend as much as a cab, and hopefully the ride isn’t as painful as a city bus or some other form of public transportation.

The idea is that you pick up another user, and they pay you for the ride, via the mobile app. Each user links their account to a checking or some other kind of money account. Theoretically this is for safety purposes, to ensure that you can’t change your identity, and work the system anonymously.

Also, to ensure politeness and cleanliness, Flinc will set up a rating system so that you can rate your experience with the users. Were they a courteous driver? Did they smoke? Did they shower? Were they maniacs? You get the idea. Once the passenger was dropped off, you would be able to rate your experience with the other user, hopefully setting up some kind of trust system.

For simplification here, let’s say their are only five users, “A,” “B,” “C,” “D,” and “E.” Users A – D have their settings switched to driver, and User E to passenger. User E inputs his destination, and all users in his vicinity are displayed. In his case, Users A – D.

User E can use the rating system to set preferences of who they’d like to pick them up. For the sake of argument, let’s say user C has 5 stars, User A has 4 starts, User B three stars, User D one star.

User E  can set his preferences in whichever order he likes, so let’s say he chooses C, A, B, D.

User C is sent a message first with the user profile, along with the rating and final destination of User E. User A is not going that direction, so he declines, and a message is automatically sent to user A. User A accepts the offer, and picks up User E.

Once the ride is complete, the money is transferred from User E’s account to User A’s account, and they are then able to rate their experience. Let’s say User A smoked, and User E didn’t like that, so User E notes that in his review for future passengers.

It sounds great, right? Well, in a perfect world, sure. It’d be awesome if a system like this worked out. I wouldn’t bother driving anywhere if I weren’t so scared of being abducted, raped, or murdered.

Also, there are certainly legal issues. I can’t say with 100% certainty, but I would be willing to bet there will be some issues in certain cities regarding hire taxi regulations. Does this violate some of those laws? I don’t doubt that this app will receive a lot of attention from large cab companies. I wouldn’t be surprised if they brought civil cases or some other kind of lawsuits trying to ban such an app.

On top of the legal issues, there is the obvious safety issues. Without the set up of certain requirements, checks, or balances, what would stop a perfectly deranged person from picking up a young girl, and never dropping them off? I’m sure I’m not the only person that is a bit put off by a service like this.

Is it sad? Sure it is. Is it reality? You bet.

Personally, I think the technology is great. I think the concept is genius, but at what point do we say: “OK, I think technology shouldn’t enable certain things?” If you ask me, this app is only asking for abuse. Without certain restrictions and other safety nets, I think this idea could turn into a real mess.