AUSTIN (KXAN) - Every day around 5 p.m. Austin's streets are cluttered with traffic jams and commuters burning gas. But a new Austin-based iPhone app, Heyride , is hoping to change that.
"We are creating a transportation alternative that's both fun and social," said Heyride CEO Josh Huck. "It allows you to pick and choose who you want to ride and or drive with."
The app works through a map system where riders request a ride, and drivers can see their general vicinity. The driver sets a price based on mileage, and the rider can choose who they want to pick them up.
"I guess safety would be my biggest concern," said Mary Jane Broussard, as she waited for a cab downtown. "I think in terms of riding with strangers -- unfortunately it's a sad reality that we have to worry about those things."
But the app ensures safety is their main concern. Heyride makes sure drivers are insured and also allows them to get background and driving record checks. Users also set up profiles to learn more about each other, and drivers can post pictures of their rides.
But Heyride says the decision to use the carpool and pick a driver mainly works through social media websites like Facebook.Drivers and riders are given ratings and reviews as well.
"It's kind of a self -policing system similar to websites like airbnb, couch surfing, and even eBay," said Huck. "You don't trust someone who doesn't have the credibility."
Heyride, which launches Friday on the iPhone app store, has also had to take city code regulations into consideration. The city has an ordinance in place requiring taxis and pedi-cabs to go through an extensive permitting system.
"We have to go through getting a chauffeur's license, we have to get our criminal record, a driving record, and see if our record is clean," said Musheak Malik, an Austin cab driver.
The Austin Transportation Department says they would have to research the ordinance and the app further in order to make a comment, but after looking over the ordinance, it doesn't specify if carpooling for cash falls into what they categorize as "chauffeured ground transportation services."
"I think all of us have given rides to friends over the years," said Huck. "So when someone is like, 'Can I get some gas money?' we don't feel like that is violating city regulations."
Despite that carpool argument, some Austin Cab drivers are still pumping their brakes when it comes to Heyride.
"They should have some kind of approval from the city," said Malik. "Not everyone can just give a ride and take away from our businesses."
But the lure of quick and easy money has some Austin commuters giving the app the green light.
"If they were willing to give me five bucks then, yeah, sure yeah, I'll pick you up," said Jessica Lemmons, an Austin driver.
The freezing and near-freezing rain that swooped into Central Texas overnight prompted numerous school closings and delays and made for a harrowing morning commute on Friday.
A man is charged with murder in the shooting death Wednesday of a woman at a North Austin auto repair shop, police said Friday.
A man is expected to survive after being stabbed in the head at the Salvation Army shelter in Downtown Austin at about 3:45 a.m. Friday.
It's the first criminal charge following a yearlong criminal investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
With freezing temperatures pushing through the region, heating systems will likely be working overtime, which can bring rising energy bills.
Investigators are looking into an overnight fire that left one woman with third-degree burns.