Mitchell, 26, uses the carpool versions of Uber and Lyft — called UberPool and Lyft Line — to meet women.
Here’s his routine: Check the app to see who he’s matched with (Lyft Line will show the person’s Facebook picture; UberPool, just the name). Then when the woman joins him in the car, he’ll ask where she’s headed.
“If they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m going to my boyfriend’s house,’ it’s not a good situation to step into,” said Mitchell, who is a venture investor. He’s been on four dates with women he’s met this way so far — two from each app.
Mitchell isn’t alone in looking for love on Lyft Line and UberPool. With these less-expensive versions of Uber and Lyft, the apps automatically match people with other passengers going the same way.
Although passengers have no control over whom they’re partnered with, there’s a high-enough density of young, single people in a city like San Francisco that occasional romantic interludes happen. As people share the ride to their respective destinations, they have a bit of downtime to get to know one another. It’s a natural, maybe even inevitable, perk of the sharing economy.
It’s speed-dating on demand, and the people doing it say it’s better than Tinder. I asked friends, Uber and Lyft drivers, fellow passengers and the companies themselves to connect me with people who have landed dates from ridesharing.
Drivers were quick to regale me with the kind of stories usually reserved for bartenders.
An Uber driver named Cesar estimated that at least once or twice a day he’ll have passengers who flirt or try to exchange numbers. “Guys will go by the name in the app. It’ll say ‘Brooke,’ and you’ll see them brushing up. As soon as the person gets in, now they’re on a timer,” said Cesar. “When he completely strikes out and fails, that’s when he’ll say, ‘Oh, man! I was trying to get the most out of my Uber ride.'”
Fidelix, a Lyft driver with a penchant for playing African tribal beats in his car, claims two-thirds of the rides he gives have romantic intrigue — a number that seems a little too high to be possible. “So many times I’ve seen people meet each other in my car,” he said. “There was this one guy and girl who were in the same bar earlier in the night, so they recognized each other. They started talking, and then they were quiet, and all of a sudden they were kissing.”
After hearing enough carpool tales, I was feeling a little insulted that no one has ever hit on me this way. But the drivers I spoke with assured me that the dating pool is limited to certain neighborhoods or times of day. Saturday night, when everyone’s been drinking, is prime pickup time. Not surprisingly, the city’s Financial District is a hot spot.
“You get all the suits,” Cesar said.
The only driver I met in the past week who wasn’t familiar with this dating phenomenon was an older Asian man who normally drives in Mountain View and Palo Alto. The suburban demographics swing toward the family-friendly, so he’s spared the awkwardness of being the third wheel on an impromptu blind date. “Thank God,” he said, shifting in his seat. “That would be very uncomfortable.”
The discomfort goes both ways. The people I spoke with who date on these services all mentioned how weird it was to have the driver along for the ride. “It’s just you two and this driver who is watching your every move,” said Mitchell.
He recalled one of his drivers narrating his botched pickup. “I read the situation wrong, and I asked for her number, and she got out of the car,” Mitchell said. “The driver turned back and was like, ‘Rough.'”
Another person I spoke with said they have a friend — a guy — who takes nonstop Lyft Lines and UberPools at the end of Saturday nights, until he finds someone amenable to going home with him.
Men aren’t the only ones plotting their romantic rendezvous. Shonna, a 31-year-old brunette who works at Airbnb, says she always chats up whoever is in the car, and it has led to both professional networking and — on her first ever ride — a date. “I got in the front and he sat in the back, and I turned around and thought, ‘He’s super cute,'” she remembered. “I gave him my card.”
Shonna’s 23-year-old cousin Sasha, who works in retail, has had similar experiences, to the point where the two thought it would be fun to dress up like Lyft “Pickup” Line for Halloween. They penned poems on the backs of their T-shirts, like “Roses are red, violets are blue, I want to take a Lyft Line with you.”
“We were trying to pick up guys and have them join our Halloween Lyft Line, and we found a few at the end of the night,” Sasha said. “I ended up dating that guy for four or five months.”
Shonna, Sasha and Mitchell all describe themselves as outgoing, socially comfortable people who liked the face-to-face nature of UberPool and Lyft Line. They found these ridesharing apps easier for dating than apps like Tinder or Hinge.
“The thing about online dating I hate is — all you see is their picture. Lyft gives you a glimpse into their personality,” Shonna said. “But it is a hard thing to ask someone out in a small space while you’re moving.”
Although finding unexpected love or lust on a rideshare carpool might be fun for some, unwanted advances could easily feel like sexual harassment. There’s also the danger of having someone see where you’re dropped off, especially if it’s your home. Mitchell says he worries about making people feel uneasy.
“I try to be the least threatening person,” he said in our interview. “I don’t want to be the super-creeper you’re stuck in a car with for 15 minutes.”
Cesar remembered a time that a couple taking a ride in his Uber car started hitting on a woman who joined their UberPool; she didn’t return their amorous interest. “I was like, ‘You poor thing.’ She was really uncomfortable, so I tried to defuse it and start a different conversation so they’d get the hint.”
The drivers play all kinds of different roles in these situations, from Cesar’s referee to commiserator if the pickup fails. Sasha even had one driver set her up after she bonded with someone over their favorite restaurant. “The driver was like, ‘You should get his email! This city is all about making connections,'” Sasha remembered.
Fidelix sees himself as a romantic cheerleader of sorts, and he has pep-talked guys before picking up their fellow passengers.
“I’m impressed and I’m happy that people are meeting each other in my car,” Fidelix said. “It’s a joyful thing.”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.