Video Interview: Paul Steinberg of Avego talks about the Future of Transport

By Connie Kwan

Millions of empty seats travel around the country on a daily basis – an incredible waste of increasingly valuable energy resources.  What if we could fill those seats and take other cars off the road?  At Going Green 2010 this week, I found a communication platform that can help fill those seats.  This video with Paul Steinberg of Avego profiles their platform for enabling next generation efficient transport.  The combination of transit and private cars is brutally inefficient.  The mass transit system is truncated.  A short 20 min journey by car may involve a much longer multi-leg journey on mass transit.  Mass transit during non-peak hours is expensive to operate but necessary due to lack of alternatives.  Meanwhile, private car ownership is expensive, and does not travel efficiently during peak hours.  Imagine a solution that provides real-time passenger information and real-time location of empty seats traveling in the right direction.  It would become a platform for marrying all modes of transportation into one seamless and efficient whole.  That is what Avego has set out to do.  With thousands of users 63 countries, Avego is already influencing the way people travel.

To enhance trust, Avego allows user ranking of each other, and provides a 4 digit code for matched riders to find each other securely.  On the incentives front, the Seattle Department of Transportation is spending half a million dollars in extra incentives such as gas cards and cash rebates to motivate passengers to choose empty seats in other private cars or on mass transit over their own vehicle.  The incentives will last six months, after which the department believes the new habit will take hold.  Drivers will continue to receive the established price of $0.20/mile per empty seat.  Santa Barbara and the San Francisco Bay area are poised to follow suit with the Metropolitan Transport Commission putting up $1.5 Million dollars for a similar program.

Transportation constitutes roughly 30% of US energy usage.  The fastest and most effective method for reducing this energy use is by becoming more efficient in the use of our existing system.  Companies like Avego are providing the catalyst for change.  Will people join?


Connie Kwan is a GreenTech Marketing professional based in Silicon Valley, CA.  She is pursuing an MBA in Sustainability at Presidio Graduate School and blogs about sustainability and business at Sustainable Thinking: Applied.

Connie Kwan is a Product Manager and Entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley, CA. She builds teams to deliver products that benefit people, planet and profit. She holds an MBA in Sustainability at Presidio Graduate School and blogs about sustainability and business at Sustainable Thinking: Applied (

2 responses

  1. Yes, the technology to match empty seats with riders has been with us for a while. Here in Western Massachusetts, a website called was set up several years ago. I’ve used it a few times, although only once did I end up actually getting either a ride or rider. Appropriately enough it was to go speak at a Green conference in Boston, two hours away.

  2. Shel, I agree with you that hitting critical mass is the main bottleneck. Without instant or near instant response for a ride request, or the guarantee of a ride when needed, people will still have to rely on their cars. The key to getting close to near instant response is an integrated system that includes the private car network and the mass transit network, such as that offered by Avego. Another potential integration is with new services that work on renting out private cars. These services harness the utility of private cars that sit in garages most of the day, and compensate the owner for the service. Statistically it is possible to compute how many private idle cars are needed to support 99.9% of the outgoing traffic from a region. And if those idle cars can be shared efficiently, then we may yet have a seamless system.

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