Lord knows China has traffic problems. Getting from point A to point B can be a nightmare in almost any Chinese city if you try it at the wrong time of day, and if you're really unlucky you could end up stuck in the world's worst traffic jam, a regular vehicular dystopia that lasts nearly two weeks and stretches sixty miles. Obviously, China needs ways to reduce the number of cars on the road, and one way to do that is carpooling. Enter mitfahrenchina.com, a Chinese startup that aims to make it easier to find a carpool by centralizing available rides and making them searchable. It's not exactly a unique concept -- it has been done plenty of times in countries all over the world -- but China could use a slick service like this if people actually adopted it. Sadly, I don't think that Mitfahrenchina is 'the one.' It is very quick to register on and quite easy to use -- I was able to register and book a ride within 60 seconds -- and the search options are thorough enough that you ought to be able to find exactly the ride you want. But there are plenty of kinks that still need to be worked out. The biggest one was that I wasn't able to find a ride to where I actually wanted to go. This, presumably, is just due to a lack of users, but this startup has been around for a while now, and not being able to find rides from one major area of Beijing to another is not a good sign. Even if I could find a ride on Mitfahrenchina, though, I doubt I'd actually take one. Most car owners seem to choose the "we'll discuss it in person" option when it comes to listing a price, which is pretty common in Chinese culture but does leave you wondering if a cab might be cheaper. More concerning is that most of the users that came up in my search results offering rides seemed to have no user information or details whatsoever. How do I know that this person is a legitimate nice guy offering a cheap ride and not some serial killer who wants to skin me and wear my face as a hat? I don't. There are "trustworthiness" ratings, true, but many users aren't rated at all. And here's what I got when I tried to check out one user: That's probably a browser or font issue, and it's the sort of thing that happens from time to time with Chinese. But this is a startup that has been around for a couple years (correction: the startup was actually launched in August of this year, it just has a faulty timestamp on its "About Us" page); if it hasn't even fixed bugs that make its site unreadable for some users, I can't say I'm too optimistic about its chances of catching on. So why am I even writing about this startup? Because somebody needs to crack this problem and create a carpool service for China that's as fast as Mitfahrenchina but doesn't have all those downsides I just listed. Wodache is a much better alternative, and Yongche can help solve some car problems too, but I'm still waiting for the perfect service. It would need to be able to attract a huge number of users pretty quickly to keep people from getting frustrated and giving up, which leads me to believe that it might have to be done in partnership with a big social network like Weibo. Can it be done? I have no idea, but I hope someone will be inspired to try a little bit harder than this.
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