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Video A High-Tech Pedicab Dispatch System at SXSW in Austin (Video) 66

It's Austin, where people are proud to be weird -- and are more environmentally aware and more concerned about energy use than in the rest of Texas. Add SXSW, with its combination of techies, musicians, film people, and general hipsters. What could be more natural at SXSW than combining a pedicab (called a bicycle rickshaw in Old Delhi and other Indian cities) with Uber's smartphone-based dispatch system? Hook Uber up with local pedicab company Easy Rider, get Samsung to sponsor it all, and you are environmentally conscious, high tech, and (possibly) hip all at once. Totally Austin. Totally SXSW. And totally promotional for all three companies involved.

Michael: My name is Michael Rivera and I am a pedicabber here in Austin working for the company Easy Rider.

Tim: For people who don’t come from cities with pedicabs, what does that mean?

Michael: Well, a pedicab is a bicycle taxicab basically. Technically, I am a non-motor chauffeur, and I pedal people for a living.

Tim: I notice you have got an electronic dispatch system. Can you talk about how that works?

Michael: Oh yeah. So Samsung is doing a little promotional deal. They teamed up with Uber who has created this dispatch system and I don’t know if you can see it.

Tim: Not very well.

Michael: Well, basically, someone can go through Uber when they are in Austin, ask for a pedicabber, and the closest pedicabber to their GPS location will get pinged, and they have 15 seconds to tap the screen, and accept the Uber call. Then I basically just drive to the person and then pick them up and the whole payment process is streamlined. When I say okay I am arriving, and then when I get there, I pick them up, I say begin trip, and then we begin the trip, and when it’s done, I push a button end trip, and then I type in the amount and rate them, and they rate me, and that’s that.

Tim: How does that vary from doing without that kind of system?

Michael: Without that, basically I just cruise the city and wait for people to flag me down, or I call out, “you need a pedicab, pedicab, pedicab?” I ring a bell, and I also got a horn.

Tim: What do you think of the interface the phone-based system?

Michael: It is alright. There are some kind of like quirks to it, the info button doesn’t work, it just says message typed, ok description unable to find last trip for way bill.

Tim: That is not very helpful.

Michael: No.

Tim: How does the system work?

Michael: The system? It is just an application on iPhone. It is kind of funny, Samsung teamed up with Uber ____2:07 iPhones.

Tim: That is funny. How would you improve it?

Michael: How would I improve it? So when the dispatch screen pops up and you get an Uber call it zooms in to their GPS location, pretty far, and you can only accept it, you can’t decline it, so I would put a decline button as well as an accept button, just like a phone call, and that way, you could look at the dispatch screen and see and zoom in and zoom out and figure out exactly where they are. Because sometimes it is just so zoomed in, you don’t know where the hell they are and you can’t find them, and you are just like alright whatever. And then it takes 15 seconds, even after you’ve decided in your head I don’t want that ride, it is just a waste of time.

Tim: Do you find it distracting to have another thing attached to your bike? With cars, people are pretty upset about texting and things like that.

Michael: I am pretty used to it. In the past, I have had a boom case, a little speaker box right here, and I had my iPhone hooked up, and I am used to having iPhone right here, and playing with it, and making playlists and stuff like that.

Tim: While you are driving?

Michael: Yeah.

Tim: So what kind of people ride in the pedicabs?

Michael: All kinds of people. You’ll get regulars, mostly drunk people at night, a lot of drunk people, even sometimes during the day you will just get waste people, but there are a lot of cool people that you meet, occasionally you’ll get a really awesome ride, and you are really engaged with somebody, and connect and have an awesome conversation, and those are rides that you value the most.

Tim: Is this your biggest week of the year?

Michael: Yes. These are the ten hardest days in my life.

Tim: Now how hard is it in general to be driving one of these around?

Michael: Pretty hard. When it is just you, it is not bad, when there are three people, three 250-pounder dudes, that’s when it gets hard.

Tim: Have you driven that much?

Michael: Oh yeah. I have taken 750 pounds from Sixth Street all the way, I think ten blocks, no more like 12 blocks all the way to the stadium uphill, and that is a brutal brutal experience.

Tim: But it is not as hilly here as some cities are.

Michael: Yeah, it is not as hilly as some cities but it is hilly enough.

Tim: Talk about your bike for a minute? What kind of gearing on it to carry all those fat drunken people?

Michael: Yeah, it is really geared basic 21 gears, but there is a grandma gear that I use a lot.

Tim: The grandma gear? That’s a nice easy gear?

Michael: Yeah, really, really small. So if I am going up a hill I will crank it down to the grandma gear, my legs will be flying but we won’t be moving that fast, but that is the only way to get up, otherwise it would be impossible.

Tim: Were you much of a biker before this?

Michael: Yeah, biking is one of my main methods of transportation. After gas prices started rising, I got angry at having to pay so much money for gas, so it is like, screw this, I am just going to get a bike, and so more out of resentment towards gas prices, I became a bicyclist.

Tim: How do you get to work?

Michael: How do I get to work? I drive a car because I can’t get back home after a night of pedi driving.

Tim: You can’t call another pedicab?

Michael: I would but usually at like 3:30 a.m. everyone is going in. By the time I am ready to go home, it is 4 a.m. at the shop, and I put up my bike, and there’s not really many pedicabbers out there.

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A High-Tech Pedicab Dispatch System at SXSW in Austin (Video)

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  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @03:32PM (#43206411)

    Bunch of self-indulgent, over-important, overly-commercial, self-involved hipsters.

    And I'm from Portland, so that's saying something.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @03:38PM (#43206483)

    who told me that the key to really SXSWing is to SXSW when I can and not SXSW about missing a day or two of my SXSW routine. I think I really SXSWed a lot at this years SXSW and look forward to SXSWing more in the future. #YOSXSWO

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @05:04PM (#43207447)

    I wonder what you have to do to get promoted to Hipster General

    You must wear the plastic frames that out-of-date are quite ironical,
    And scribe in Moleskine notes a zombie fiction most rom-comical:
    In short in matters independent, artisan, and cynical
    You'll be the very model of a modern Hipster-General. ... you know, before it was mainstream.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll