Flinc will turn your car into a taxi (fare included)

German start-up Flinc promises to help people make a little bit of spare cash off their cars. Unlike car-sharing services, its tech involves actually driving people.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read
Flinc wants to let people in need of a ride search for other cars within the Flinc network, whom they can pay less than a taxi to get to their destination. Flinc/CNET

PALM DESERT, Calif.--Flinc is one big idea that could save us all from the horrors of pricey cab rides. Unfortunately, it's years away from showing up in a major U.S. city.

The idea, as pitched in 90 seconds at this year's DemoSpring conference here, is that people who are driving around are often in a position to pick someone else up in return for some cold, hard cash--yet for much less than a taxi.

Sure, it's ride sharing with a receipt, Flinc's organizational system happens entirely in the cloud. The commands get sent to hitch hikers' cell phones, and the pickup location is sent to the driver's GPS system.

In a private demo with CNET at the show, Flinc co-founder Benjamin Kirschner showed it running very smoothly on a simulated Android device, in which he put in an order for a pickup at his virtual location. He then had a choice of a handful of Flinc drivers in the vicinity that may be able to pick him up, along with their prices and how long it would take for them to get there.

The true genius of Flinc is that it sends out the orders for these types of pickups directly to the driver's GPS system. Drivers can simply accept or decline a pickup opportunity with one click on the screen. Which driver gets those invites first is something the passenger gets to choose when filling out a pickup order. Then, as other drivers reject the pickup opportunity, the service sends a request to the next person on the list.

When a driver eventually takes the pickup opportunity, the GPS device running the Flinc app changes the route accordingly. And upon successful drop-off, the driver gets paid directly through Flinc. In many ways, it's like playing one of the taxi minigames in the Grand Theft Auto video game series.

Along with this system of finding people rides, Kirschner says Flinc is working on a ratings system to help them find good drivers. Passengers and drivers alike will be able to rate the experience, which Kirschner hopes will make first-time users more comfortable about getting into a stranger's car while weeding out bad apples.

As for how long rides can be, Kirschner says there is no real limit, since drivers can accept whatever route length with which they feel comfortable. Flinc is also working on a system to facilitate long-distance drives several days in advance, unlike the current system, which runs on spontaneity.

The technology still has a long way to go before coming to your city, phone, or GPS system. Flinc is at Demo to find partners like cell phone carriers and GPS makers to get its software included right out of the box. It also would need to gain a certain threshold of users in any one location before becoming a viable cab alternative.

See also: RelayRides, which lets you rent out your own vehicle to strangers when you're not using it, and Fon which does the same thing for Wi-Fi hot spots.

Also, here's a video demo of how it works:

flinc IFA Trailer 2009 (english) from flinc on Vimeo.