In the gap between existing taxi services and public transport, new Sydney-based app RideSurfing connects customers in need of a ride with drivers who are trained and vetted by RideSurfing for a convenient, friendly experience. “The objective is to provide a very efficient way to go from A to B in the city. But it's actually more than that,” says co-founder Manutea Dupont. “It's also a very nice social experience as well, because you are essentially a guest in somebody else's car.”

Like its peers, the app handles all monetary transactions in advance, so customers and drivers need not be delayed by payment at the end of the trip. Tips, accordingly, are a non-issue.

The app trains and performs background checks on all its prospective drivers. So far there have been around 700 applicants, of which Dupont confirms around one-tenth have been selected for training. “We have a medical student who says he wants to drive so he can meet new people, because otherwise he wouldn't have as much social interaction during the day, and people love meeting him,” says Dupont.

While this seems like an odd way to make friends, Dupont stresses that while the app is hugely efficient, RideSurfing is foremost about the human interaction. “We've had positive feedback,” he says. “I think people are very excited by the social element of it.”

Recently, however, similar ridesharing app Uber has come under fire for alleged breaches of the Passenger Transport Act for operating unlicensed vehicles and employing unlicensed drivers in New South Wales, and has been investigated by NSW Roads and Maritime Services. Ridesharing apps like RideSurfing and Uber currently plan to operate in a new market without any clear regulation, given the new technology involved. RideSurfing, however, could possibly avoid issues with its “donation-based system”, which might work around the legal definition of “payment”.

Dupont is optimistic, however, that the regulations will change as attitudes do. “My strong belief is that there is a place for [ridesharing] in Sydney for sure,” says Dupont. “We actually don't see ourselves as competing directly with taxis. We are creating extra space in the market.”