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Lyft Encourages Users to Share Their Commutes

A new carpool feature comes amid regulator and insurer skepticism.

Nellie Bowles

To enable rides that are more like carpools than taxis, Lyft today added a feature to help drivers tell the ride-sharing app where they are planning to go.

The company is aiming for the 80 percent of commuters who drive to work alone, it said. The new “driver destination” feature is part of Lyft Line, the company’s paid carpool feature in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In San Francisco, these shared rides now account for a third of total Lyft rides.

But while Lyft may see a big difference between people who are already going somewhere and pick up a paying passenger on the way, and drivers trolling around town for hire, regulators and insurers are more skeptical. Both types are paid Lyft drivers.

The legality of shared rides — which competitors Sidecar and Uber also offer — continues to be questioned by authorities, who say services can’t charge different fees to individuals.

Another concern for would-be carpoolers is the San Francisco Chronicle’s report this weekend about internal policies from insurers including Geico, who continue to be hostile towards their customers who work for Lyft and Uber while maintaining their personal insurance policies.

While Lyft and other ride-sharing companies offer significant insurance for drivers when passengers have contracted a trip, there is a grey area for drivers who do not have passengers in the car. Uber, for one, has said its policy covers on-duty drivers between trips — but not as strongly as when they have passengers on board. That grey area was made all the more poignant when an Uber driver in San Francisco hit and killed a 6-year-old girl last year on New Year’s Eve while waiting for a fare.

Update: Lyft said it offers similar between-trip coverage.

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