Organizing road trips can be hard. Organizing carpools -- sometimes with complete strangers -- can be even harder.
First, there are masses of phone calls, text messages, and emails to sort through. Then, every rider's schedule and personal information has to be entered into a database. Once upon a time, that "database" was a dog-eared notebook sitting in the driver's glove box, but these days it's often a shared Google doc. That simplifies things a bit, but may your deity of choice help you if one of your traveling companions flubs the spreadsheet.
Now, there's a much easier way to get things moving. It's quick, it's intuitive, it's graphically oriented, and best of all, it's free.
It's a new site called GroupCarpool, which allows both drivers and passengers to set up trips. The demo video above offers a complete rundown of the service, but here are a few of its stand-out features:
1. Signup is a snap: Simply click the "+Create A Carpool" button on GroupCarpool's front page, then name your trip (e.g. "Road trip to Mardi Gras" or "Daily commute from Schenectady to Wall Street") and provide an email address. That's it: no password, no authentication. You're ready to start planning.
2. Plenty of personal info: Whether you're an eager driver or a hopeful passenger, you can plug in as little or as much personal info as you'd like. You can even add notes, like "I need help paying for gas" or "I have veto power over the radio". That comes in handy for staying in touch with your fellow travelers and for clarifying some rules of the road, which can be a very good idea.
3. One-way and round-trip options: Sometimes, travelers only need to go one way. For example, college students traveling home for summer break may just want a ride to their parents' house. GroupCarpool lets folks sign up for one-way or round-trip trips, and the results are reflected in the graphics, which show the number of open seats on both legs.
Admittedly, GroupCarpool isn't perfect. We'd especially like to see an upgrade that allows for more complex travel schedules -- say, a cross-country trip with multiple stops along the way. But it's a very encouraging start.