Ways to develop social norms needed for ride-sharing carpools

Sharing a ride-sharing vehicle with other passengers can lead to problems:

“These days, I’m always worried about if I’m going to get in a car with a passenger who is new to pooling and won’t know how to behave properly,” says Omar Paten, a 36-year-old Brooklyn resident who pines for his carpool of yore in Atlanta, Ga., where he grew up. “It was like there were unwritten rules that everyone knew to follow. No one would eat, no one would smoke, no one would play loud music just out of respect for others.”…

Vanessa Graham didn’t bother to rate one recent ride—she just decided to swear off ride-sharing. The 26-year-old Queens native says her early-morning commute to Manhattan was shattered by a booming beat after two co-passengers joined the ride and plugged an iPhone into the car’s auxiliary cord. Then they started freestyle rapping…

“It was 95 degrees outside! My makeup was literally melting off in the car,” said Ms. Sheppard. Most egregiously he insisted that she was a spoiled American princess who didn’t understand the real struggles of life. “He told me that AC was a luxury not a necessity, and that he never drove with the AC on any of his personal cars. I laughed out loud.”

The article hints that earlier iterations with carpooling worked because knowing your fellow passengers and sharing a vehicle for a long period means that everyone tried to behave. Additionally, the ride-sharing services ask passengers to rate drivers and not other passengers:

One loophole in the app: You can’t rate an obnoxious fellow rider, or even learn who they are, beyond a first name that disappears when the ride is over.

So how do social norms develop in such situations? I could imagine a few paths:

1. The companies provide guidance for passengers on how to act and/or enable drivers or passengers to offer feedback to each other.

2. The press or regulators emphasize stories of bad passengers, either shaming the companies or riders into acting.

3. Passengers observe bad passenger behavior and informally a set of norms arise.

4. Drivers push back consistently against bad passengers.

If I had to guess which one will happen, I would go with #1 as the issue could be one that limits business for particular companies that do not act. How exactly companies would encourage social norms – positive reinforcement? Rating poor behavior? – would be interesting to watch.

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