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

Roblimo posted about a year ago | from the old-fashioned-muscle-power-combined-with-modern-technology dept.

Transportation 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.

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And how long will it last? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43206385)

In my experience with Seattle hipsters, stuff like this tends to be very short-lived. Generally, it lasts about as long as it takes for the novelty/hipness to wear off and for the hipsters to realize that it's actual *work* that requires them to show up regularly and on time and shit. Then it's on to the next hipster job to piss off their parents.

A great dispatch system isn't going to help when half of your employees didn't show up to work because the local weed dispensary just got in a new shipment of some amazing new strain. But then, maybe Austin hipsters are a uniquely hard-working and customer-oriented lot compared to their lazy smelly Seattle counterparts.

Re:And how long will it last? (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about a year ago | (#43206545)

The pedicab company that's doing it has been around for over a year already, so I'd bet they'll be around for a while.

Re:And how long will it last? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43206847)

Wow ... a whole year ... thats just ... wow, a long time ...

Of course, this same sort of thing was done 10 years ago by real businesses for much larger fleets and geographical areas.

Theres really not a single thing new about this other than maybe its the first time someone mentioned it on slashdot?

Re:And how long will it last? (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about a year ago | (#43213397)

Perhaps you missed the title of the article. The pedicab company isn't what's new.

But hey, don't let that stop you from being just as big a douche as the hipsters you like to complain about.

Re:And how long will it last? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43206863)

What you call hipsters, I call hippies. I see very few hipsters in Seattle. If you want hipsters, yes, go to Austin, or Pittsburgh, or maybe a few places around New York state.

SuxBySuxWest (2, Funny)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#43206411)

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

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

Re:SuxBySuxWest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43207463)

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

It is and I'm from Austin. It wasn't too bad when it started and was just about music. Then they added film. Now it seems it's open to everything and music's a sideline.

I'm not saying I was into it before it was cool. It was never my thing, but I know a lot of people who used to look forward to it who don't even go anymore.

Re:SuxBySuxWest (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year ago | (#43209217)

It's "mini - San Francisco".

Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43206433)

Totally Commercial, Totally pretentious.

Its austin, the precise opposite of punk rock.


Not new (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#43206469)

This isn't novel. I live in a regressive-as-hell southern city, with tons of sprawl, that isn't even all that large, and we've had this exact service for over a year. Yet another super-positive review of a particular company dealing in a not-all-that-interesting product.

Thankfully buzzword free, but still quite shillish.

Re:Not new (1)

motoservo (1327295) | about a year ago | (#43207085)

Are you saying your "regressive-as-hell southern city" has this exact dispatch system? Or, that you have pedicabbing? Austing was the first city in the USA with any significant Pedicabbing business. It started in earnest around Y2K and by '02 there were about 30 cabs on the street already. I know, I was a cabbie in one of them. By 06 or so there were well over 150 cabs, and god knows how many there are now. I travelled a bunch back then, didn't see pedicabs in NY or SF or LA or anywhere else I visited circa 02.

Re:Not new (1)

jxander (2605655) | about a year ago | (#43207275)

There've been pedicabs in downtown San Diego for years now, at least in the areas I frequent. AFAIK, they don't have any coordinated cell phone texting app... they just hang out by the parking structures early on in the evening, and closer to the bars later in the evening. They cruise around with a big inviting empty seat and pick up sore-footed drinkers.

I've never utilized their services myself, but they've always been readily available anytime I'm in the Gaslamp.

Re:Not new (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43207553)

Who gives a fuck? This still isn't new. Are you too fucking stupid to understand that you fucking fuck? Why don't you just go suck another faggot dick?

Kill me now.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43206471)

Slashdot why are you killing me... Seriously if this is news for nerds I'm leaving the nerd herd.

Re:Kill me now.. (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#43206825)

Oh, a Chuck reference! Yay for nerds!

I think 4chan is becoming a more attractive place than Slashdot.

At SXSW, I SWSXed with other SWSXers (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#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

Re:At SXSW, I SWSXed with other SWSXers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43206533)

Yeah, but TED.

Re:At SXSW, I SWSXed with other SWSXers (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43206771)

who told me that the key to really SXSWing is to...

have SXSW with all your friends? Maybe some strangers, too?

Re:At SXSW, I SWSXed with other SWSXers (1)

denvergeek (1184943) | about a year ago | (#43206917)


Re:At SXSW, I SWSXed with other SWSXers (1)

lemur3 (997863) | about a year ago | (#43208623)

at least they arent saying 'Burning Man'

though sure, from what ive seen there at burning man.. that slashdot and the 'social media' sites could easily be filled with tons of neato stories about the tech/projects people work on at burning man.. a lot more hotels at sxsw..

When hipsters sell out... (1)

swb (14022) | about a year ago | (#43206503) global multinationals?

*General* hipsters? (1, Informative)

QilessQi (2044624) | about a year ago | (#43206595)

Add SXSW, with its combination of techies, musicians, film people, and general hipsters

I saw this and thought, aw, crap: the hipsters have finally organized into a military hierarchy. I wonder what you have to do to get promoted to Hipster General... does it involve wearing ironically out-of-date plastic frames with zero-prescription lenses while scribbling notes for your YA zombie rom-com novel in a Moleskine notebook using nothing but artisinally-sharpened Blackwing 602 pencils? Or am I just thinking of Hipster Lieutenant Colonel?

Re:*General* hipsters? (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#43206935)

artisinally-sharpened Blackwing 602 pencils

Oh my God, you made me look this up and you are right... there is a scruffy, hipster underground paying $20 for an "original" or about $1.25 for a recreation of a commercially unsuccessful soft-lead pencil. Then, when they find out that their soft-lead pencil doesn't last very long (which is why most people don't use them), they invent a two-step pencil sharpener that lets you start with a longer lead.

Re:*General* hipsters? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:*General* hipsters? (1)

QilessQi (2044624) | about a year ago | (#43208089)

That's awesome! Why'd you post AC?

(No, wait, I can guess... you're down in Austin RIGHT NOW, aren't you?)

Read the wrong headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43206599)

I though this was talking about a way to deal with high-tech sex offenders that preferred children.

Regular Cabbies Disapprove (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about a year ago | (#43206601)

Riding in a normal cab downtown we saw a pedicab and commented. The driver made it known with a mix profanity and some Eastern European language I did not recognize that he felt they were a pest.

Re:Regular Cabbies Disapprove (1)

skine (1524819) | about a year ago | (#43207415)

Bicyclists annoy people more than enough as is.

Add in that they're using larger, slower vehicles, and have a strong incentive to be aggressive, and I'm sure people will like them better!

Opposed by the vested interests (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43206647)

If I recall correctly, there is a local councilman who is opposed to the pedicabs, ride sharing, etc. because it takes money from the existing taxi drivers.

Re:Opposed by the vested interests (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about a year ago | (#43208119)

A few years ago, the bus drivers in Hawaii went on strike. The Bus was running at about half fleet, so people needed to find alternatives. Several people called the local radio stations, and said they planned to stop at a bus stop and give people rides as they went to work in the morning, and again with other stangers on the way home. The amount of trust and community spirit shown was quite remarkable.

Then the authorities claimed people would be ticketed, and possibly arrested, for stopping at a but stop and giving people rides. It is illegal to stop at a bus stop, unless you are the Bus. Of course, they just don't want the loss of revenue, even in times of difficulty.

So, yeah, there are assholes everywhere.

What? (1)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year ago | (#43206653)

I just got back from SXSW yesterday. A high-tech dispatch system for pedicabs? Stick your arm out until you clothesline one off his bike. Seriously, they were everywhere, and maybe 5% ever had a passenger. You don't need a high-tech system to organize something that's both ubiquitous and worthless.

Old Guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43206729)

You're one of those old guys that has actual lenses in their spectacles, aren't you?

Ya freak!

Re:What? (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#43206789)

how much were the pedicabs?

i'm guessing they cost as much or more than a normal auto taxi. sure there is less carbon footprint, but the trip takes a lot longer which means the person has to charge more per passenger

what's the point of paying more to take more time to arrive at your destination?

Re:What? (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about a year ago | (#43206911)

More time and more effort if you are unlucky. A friend and I flagged down one of these (not in Austin, but some town near LA), and it turned out the driver was a nice Ukrainian girl, so all was well... until we hit the first hill. The poor lady had some trouble hauling two somewhat overweight middle aged guys up on the incline, so we volunteered for pedal duty. Turns out it's something of an exercise to propel these things along!

Austin is not very hilly though, IIRC.

Re:What? (1)

motoservo (1327295) | about a year ago | (#43207161)

In Austin, pedicabs can go places motorcabs can't. And they don't wait in traffic in places motor cabs can go--but are usually stuck. Also, in Austin, the usual ride is from 6th street to warehouse district. Which is about 5 blocks. Just enough to kill your buzz if you're walking in Summer heat, or kill your feet, if you're a chick in heels. Motorcabs don't even waste their time with a 20 second ride for 5 blocks. It just pisses them off.

Re:What? (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about a year ago | (#43208179)

That seems like it would be better served by a 6-8 passenger electric GoCart type vehicle. Like the shuttles I've seen at some malls or hospitals. Just as you say, it keeps you from getting all sweaty or having sore feet. Or, especially at the hospital, gets old people inside before they collapse from exertion from walking a hundred feet.

Just get one small enough it can go where the pedicab can, and transport 3 to 4 times as many people at once, on a short route.

Re:What? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year ago | (#43207337)

I know a guy who worked as a rickshaw runner. You could rent out a rickshaw from some company who owned a bunch, and it was up to you how much you charged and to determine how to make any money. Most people did it for the novelty, and not because they had to get anywhere in a hurry, or because it was cheaper than any other form of transportation. I imagine that pedicabs are pretty much in the same situation. It's a little like taking a handsome cab around central park. Sure there's faster and cheaper ways to get around, but that's not always the goal.

Really? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43206707)

The assertion that Austin is 'more concerned about energy use than in the rest of Texas' seems curious to me. If the Texans that crawl onto the national stage are any indication, Texans are obsessively concerned about energy use... they just happen to be in favor of it.

Re:Really? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43206811)

Austin in general is a whole 'nother Texas, but these days it's more corporate than hippie. Not at all the legendary Austin of the 1970s, though everyone tries to pretend it still is.

Now the politicians in Austin... they're Pure Texas.

Re:Really? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43206877)

You're thinking of College Station, not Austin

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43209585)

If the Texans that crawl onto the national stage are any indication, Texans are obsessively concerned about energy use... they just happen to be in favor of it.

You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about and I doubt you've spent any significant time here. But keep on believing the stereotype, it only exposes your own prejudice.

Re:Really? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about a year ago | (#43210301)

The assertion that Austin is 'more concerned about energy use than in the rest of Texas' seems curious to me. If the Texans that crawl onto the national stage are any indication, Texans are obsessively concerned about energy use... they just happen to be in favor of it.

This movement seems to be well in keeping with that theory. I mean, the rickshaws are definitely more environmentally friendly than automobiles, but the use of cell phones, packed full of rare earth metals, non-biodegradable plastics, glass and biohazardous batteries, all of which will be chucked away in 6 months when the newer model with the different font on the model name comes out, ranks right up there with the "to hell with the environment" conservatives that they love to slam.

90F in Austin today (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43206727)

Pedicab is the worst possible idea for Austin, especially when it actually starts to get hot.

Re:90F in Austin today (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#43208845)

No problem . . . the next SXSW will feature pedicab powered air conditioners!

But wait . . . there's still more . . . we'll throw in a personalized limited edition pedicab Bass-o-Matic!

And a spiral slicer.

Re:90F in Austin today (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43208919)

If it's such a terrible idea, why have they been around in Austin for years?

If hipsters are doing it.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43206831)

.... then is has to a a hyped-up, neo-mainstream sort of weird with no real impact except to make one feel smug and superior. Nothing "hipster" related is progressive - it's just eco-pretentious.

concern!=effect (1)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#43206881)

environmentally aware and more concerned about energy use than in the rest of Texas

Unfortunately for the environment of Texas, concern and awareness does not equal to actual effect. For instance, Austin has about the worst carbon footprint in Texas and the nation, ranking 55 out of 100. It is clear why when you look at the basic conservative nature of the city and the lack of infrastructure. For instance, Houston with over three decades of increasingly liberal mayors, has actively adopted renewables, and reducing the cities use of electricity overall. Light rail is increasingly allowing us to get around. For instance over spring break there was times when I did not have to drive at all, and when I went to the rodeo the trained dropped me right there. []

Austin wants to believe it is cool, but the reality is that most other urban places in Texas are much more diversified, much more culturally relevant, and musically interesting, unless you like listening to the same type of women or men singing the same things over and over again.

And, to quote my techie friends, SXSW specifically schedules things so all the geeks are out of town before the hipsters arrive.

Re:concern!=effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43208413)

In NOLA, come Mardi Gras, the natives book it en masse away from the place, usually to Disney World.

As a native Austinite, same thing. Come SXSW, one leaves town as fast as possible (avoiding the hogs on 130 as you run 80-85.)

Once away from the town, there are a number of things to go to... I end up at a local renaissance faire during the weekend. Camping is cheap, security is good, and it is nice to rest one's geek mind for a bit. Even the staged fights are some of the best I've seen, especially one where a wood elf smashed a drow's head into a tree until blood comes out her mouth, which is very unexpected. (Normally I expect some people to clang swords a bit, not actually go to ground combat.)

Re:concern!=effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43208581)

The city council has really failed the city when it comes to transportation. The bus system used to be decent with 'Dillos (buses shaped like streetcars) running downtown every 5 minutes. However, that was pulled, and most buses tend to become the bedroom and bathroom for the homeless population.

Of course, there was nearly a 100 million "transportation" bond package... its use"? Pave a bike path to a place nobody cares about, and close off some downtown lanes, making them bicycle lanes that tend to end up being some place a panhandler fresh off the bus from SF sets up shop to accost the locals.

Perhaps if the council would actually do a traffic improvement (last major one was in 1995, and that was 183), other than turning existing arteries into toll roads (Loop 1 is destined to become a toll road that the price goes up by the traffic on it, up to $20 or so each way), it may be a livable city.

Re:concern!=effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43209733)

Dude, were an international city now. How can we be an international city without bike lanes to nowhere? Or masses of expensive condos? Or an unused railway? Or closing roads to house an F1 track?

Or you could just walk (2)

grag (597728) | about a year ago | (#43206915)

The Austin downtown area is where most of the SXSW action occurs, and Austin's downtown really isn't that big. People needing cabs or pedicabs to move six blocks is a simple 10 to 15 minute walk.

Re:Or you could just walk (1)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#43211301)

Have you ever tried walking in retro- early 80s or 70s low-rise boots from the vintage thrift store while wearing super-tight women's pants and sweating through your "ironic" (used to mean insincere, rather than the actual definition of the word, as is always the case with hipsters) facial hair, with a "bespoke" messenger bag crafted out of recycled tires and third-world-toilet-paper with a giant communist icon emblazoned over the face of the bag, for more than eighty feet?!

nig6A (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43207253)

appeared...saying Member. GNNA (GAY inventing excuses for it. I don't conversations where this post up. minutes. At home, to them...then OF AMERICA) today, declined in market

"Keep Austin Weird"? Sad... (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#43207339)

It's very very sad that there must be an active "Keep Austin Weird" movement. Yaknow, when I lived there (left not by my own will in '98) it was just plain weird by itself and didn't need any sort of artificial campaign. In fact I would argue that some campaign actually decreases the amount of genuine weirdness, as it encourages people to create a contrived weirdness where none existed before. Sad. What happened to my beloved city in the last 15 years?

Oh yeah, hipsters. Good job, assholes.

Re:"Keep Austin Weird"? Sad... (1)

WillgasM (1646719) | about a year ago | (#43207439)

It's been downhill over the last year since Leslie died.

Re:"Keep Austin Weird"? Sad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43209341)

I used to work a block away where Leslie got his fatal braining (Oltorf/I-35 bridge). People don't realize that the local Austin panhandlers are very aggressive and will not hesitate to use a knife or the time-tested "lock in a sock" that has proven itself as a weapon in prisons worldwide.

Re:"Keep Austin Weird"? Sad... (1)

swb (14022) | about a year ago | (#43207865)

I would argue that the "hipster" concept was ultimately destroyed by the Internet, and the commercialization of "alternative" music that took place in the late 80s/early 90s.

Prior to that, you kind of had to have a yen for weirdness to even understand the hipster concept. Now all you have to do is read the internet and have facial hair.

Re:"Keep Austin Weird"? Sad... (1)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#43211333)

But, by definition, hipsters follow popular trends and culture, with the modern twist of also being "ironic" (except they misuse "irony" when they really just like this disingenuously). Being a hipster is not about liking things and your taste in things for the sake of those things. Being a hipster is a completely insincere act of liking things and following trends almost purely for the effect it has on your perceived social status.

You and I might like that one band because of that one awesome song they do. Hipsters like that other band, because they believe liking that other band makes them appear smarter, edgier, and unique. Taste is purely a currency, as far as they're concerned.

Re:"Keep Austin Weird"? Sad... (1)

swb (14022) | about a year ago | (#43213619)

I think the irony thing has been around longer than that. Even the relatively genuine hipsters of the 1980s had an affectation for 1950s cultural paraphernalia but in an "ironic" mode.

The Replacements have a song from 1983 that underscores it perfectly --

Everybody at your party
they don't look distressed
Everybody's dressing funny
Color me impressed...

Re:"Keep Austin Weird"? Sad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43208471)

As a native, I know the "Keep Austin Weird" movement was from California.

Austin has lost venues left and right (Back Room, Emo's, Prague, and what has replaced them are places great for the spray tan/duck lips crowd, but if one doesn't want to hear someone wail about their dead cat at Spider House, or some generic rock act down on Sixth, you basically have Elysium and that's it.

So, if you want to listen to anything other than hip-hop, country, or whatever some hipster is reading/singing, go elsewhere. Even San Antonio has a far better music scene.

Re:"Keep Austin Weird"? Sad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43211317)

Plus, Portland has been doing the "keep blah weird" thing for far longer.

And is a perhaps more authentic place for freaks and outliers. So much so that Chuck Phalanuk wrote the guide to Portland, years ago, titled "Freaks and Fugitives".

A bunch of anti-corporate hipsters gathering at an event every year where they socialize and sell-out under corporate banners after over-riding what was once a music festival by bullying it into submission with Twitter, social networking applications, cell phones and portable shit, movies, comics, and every other media trendy thing seems less "weird" and more "douchey".

How we look at Austin from Houston... (2)

VAXcat (674775) | about a year ago | (#43208029)

The motto in Austin is "Keep Austin Weird". The motto in Houston, seen on T-shirts and posters - "Keep Austin 163 miles from here"

OP is Full of Hot Air (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43208379)

Jackass said: "are more environmentally aware and more concerned about energy use than in the rest of Texas" - OP is no doubt a self-righteous democrat with no concept of the reailty of the climate. Does he know the "carbon footprint" of the foamed nickel in his precious Prius battery? Didn't think so. Does he know how Al Gore makes his money ? Probably not. OP and all who agree with him need to seriously grow up.

Don't emulate Austin (0)

whizbang77045 (1342005) | about a year ago | (#43209029)

The fact that they're doing it in Austin makes many of the rest of us Texans leary of the idea.

Rickshaws are fun, and not just for operators. (1)

AshboryBass (1539705) | about a year ago | (#43209179)

I've had a personal rickshaw for about 6 years. Fun! I haul friends and family around. Good times.

The Chinese one I started with is junky, but the Colorado-built Main Street I have bought since is far more capable. At $3400 new, they also cost about 10x what the Chinese ones run. Mine was bought used, and I have about $1000 in it as it sits today (details here: [] )

If you've thought about getting a rickshaw for personal use, without knowing any details I'd say to go for it.

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