AUSTIN (CBS) - Have you ever had the thought while fighting traffic, "who are all these people?" The city of Austin calls them "single occupants." There are 9,000 empty car seats every work day in Central Texas, thanks to people driving by themselves.
The rideshare program, Carma Carpooling, announced it's teaming up with Austin-based "Ridescout." Here's how this partnership is trying to get extra cars off the road.
"Our drivers are already headed from their origin to the destination." says Russ Garcia, Carma Carpooling marketing associate. "They're just picking up a few people along the way."
He showed us how to start a trip and choose a driver on the app. Our driver, Mark, then planned the trip, accepting us as riders.
"It's actually 20 cents per mile per passenger and then the driver can make up to that 54 cents depending on how many passengers they have."
A small fee, considering he had to put up with small talk. Accepting any more than that though would be illegal for a rideshare in Austin, which is the problem with Uber and Lyft.
"It's mainly the drivers that are accepting money above 56 cents a mile, which they need a chauffeurs license and they need to operate under an operating authority." says Gordon Derr, assistant director for Austin Transportation Department.
"We've always tried to get carpool matching going. There's been efforts for 20 years to try to get people that work at the same business to find each other and get fewer cars on the road."
So, how do you know if your carpool is safe?
"We don't do a full background check on all of our users although we definitely reserve the right to do so." says Garcia.
You have to rely on peer references and the person's Facebook profile, which is linked to the app. Background checks are not required.
"If it does become a concern we can work with Carma, but at this point,we don't have anything in the code that would give us the power to regulate them."
The city of Austin has formed a work group to brainstorm ways to help transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft operate legally.