(Fraunhofer FOKUS)

In spite of rising energy prices, many car drivers in large cities still ride alone. Fraunhofer's OpenRide mobile ridesharing service aims to save them money, while helping the environment by reducing the amount of traffic.

OpenRide is being developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems FOKUS. The researchers presented a prototype at the IFA international consumer electronics exhibition in Berlin, from September 4-9.

The system developers are paying particular attention to functionality and user friendliness. Users will open the application on their cellphone and select from a menu the options for offering or looking for a ride. They then enter the starting and finishing points, as well as the number of places available or required, and send the enquiry to the OpenRide server. A search engine for intelligent route matching compares the offers and requests received.

The researchers are planning to equip OpenRide with a rating system and user profiles to strengthen the trust between driver and passenger.

Drivers can offer lifts spontaneously from their cellphone while out on the road, and ride seekers can look for a lift opportunity in their direct vicinity. A software program continuously compares offers with requests for rides.

Matching offers are displayed in real time on the cellphone, and the search engine takes partial journeys, short detours, and the current position of the driver and potential passenger into account.

A key feature of the OpenRide infrastructure is the use of open interfaces, allowing the integration of additional partners. This provides end users with a new means of accessing ridesharing centers, and enables network operators and cellphone manufacturers to widen their service offering.

OpenRide is on course for market launch next year, and field trials with industrial partners are planned for the end of 2009.

(Fraunhofer FOKUS)