Chances are that if you use a private vehicle to go places, there's generally some free space somewhere. Whether it's an empty back seat, boot, or passenger seat, it's unused space that could potentially earn drivers money.
That's the concept that Kiwi startup Lonelyseat is sharing, through a new service that connects drivers with people who need parcels or objects shipped around the country.
Think of it as like a private courier service that makes use of empty space. After two months of soft-launch testing, Lonelyseat is now publicly available for everyone to use.
So far the company has built a network of drivers and shippers from as far north as Kerikeri and as far south as Invercargill.
Lonelyseat cofounder Riki Manarangi (Te Arawa, Ngati Whakaue) says that it's better for people's wallets, and for the environment.
“Two thirds of cars in New Zealand are have one occupant so we've created a network that makes use of that empty space,” says Manarangi.
Lonelyseat is also working alongside partners such as Trees That Count to offset more carbon than it emits, and assist the Government in its Zero Carbon ambitions.
“Instead of putting more vehicles on the road to transport goods, Lonelyseat makes use of journeys already being made. That reduces our country's overall carbon footprint which is what we're passionate about.
He also says that the cost of item shipping is about 50% less than what it would cost to use a traditional service.
That means drivers can earn money from their ride, and the shipper can save money.
Drivers and shippers also decide how much spare space is worth, although Lonelyseat does provide logistics guidance.
“Using traditional logistics options, sending a single desk chair from Auckland to Christchurch could cost around $150, whereas our pricing tool recommends around $70,” Manarangi says.
“Of that, the driver will pocket about $60. That's $60 that they would not have received otherwise, and the sender pays less than half of the typical cost. Everyone wins.
Safety is also important. Drivers go through a vetting process when they sign up, and a review system keeps drivers and shippers in check. There's also live GPS tracking so shippers can check their item's progress.
“Lonelyseat is like carsharing but instead of making small talk with strangers in your car, you get paid to just carry their stuff,” Manarangi says.
“New Zealand is a car country and we're giving people a simple way to cash in on their long journeys, and offset both their fuel cost and our country's carbon footprint.