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Lyft acquires Hitch to boost carpooling platform

Peer-to-peer ridesharing platform Lyft has bought Californian transport startup Hitch, in bid to build its shared ride offering Lyft Line and take on Uber in the carpooling stakes.

Just weeks after online ridesharing arch-rivals Uber and Lyft announced their new carpooling options, UberPool and Lyft Line respectively, the San Francisco-based Lyft is already moving to boost its new offering with the acquisition of ridesharing startup Hitch.

"We're thrilled to announce that we’ve acquired Hitch, the ridesharing platform that connects multiple passengers traveling along similar routes," Lyft said in a blog post published on September 22. "With this acquisition, Hitch co-founders Snir Kodesh and Noam Szpiro will join the Lyft team as we continue to expand personal transit to more cities across the country."

The San Francisco-based startup publicly launched its carpooling app in June this year. Its founders Snir Kodesh and Noam Szpiro built the platform around the goal of bringing a new mode of transportation to the fore through the use of dynamic routing, allowing users to share rides with other users.

"We observed too many empty cab seats and noticed that public transit could be improved with the addition of dynamic routing," said the Hitch co-founders in a statement. "We built an app, a sophisticated engine optimised for pairings, and started to grow our platform — with new users and drivers alike."

Now, Lyft has said that starting from September 23 the Hitch platform will close for drivers and passengers, with the platform set to be folded into the Lyft Line platform, which it expects will see a boost in growth thanks to the acquisition — the value of which it has not disclosed.

"We're excited to welcome current Hitch drivers into the Lyft community, many of whom are already signed on as ridesharing drivers," the company said. "Lyft Line is in its early stages, and we're only beginning to see what we can do with shared rides. We have seen incredible growth and demand for Lyft Line in San Francisco, and the Hitch team and technology will help us move even faster to bring shared rides to more people."

Lyft founders Logan Green and John Zimmer met the Hitch founders over a year ago, with both companies realising they were covering the same ground — literally and figuratively — with similar services.

"The Lyft team deeply shares our vision for collaborative transportation," said the Lyft founders in their joint statement. "They also value the impact and significance of community in making this dream a reality. Lyft is a perfect complement and together, we look forward to continuing to innovate in the transportation field. We're only at the cusp of this movement with ride-sharing, and we can't wait to keep pushing the frontier."

The acquisition comes as the battle between Uber and Lyft — both based in San Francisco — begins to heat up with questionable tactics , with Lyft accusing Uber of trying to sabotage its business by hiring people to book and then cancel thousands of rides.

While Uber denied this tactic, the company did say in a statement that it has a marketing program called Operation SLOG, which sees Uber employees take rides with competitors to recruit them.

Although Lyft has not yet entered the Australian market, Uber operates in several Australian metropolitan areas, including Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast, despite being issued with a cease-and-desist-order by the Queensland state government.

Meanwhile, the Australian Competition Policy Review panel has suggested that an independent regulator be introduced to ensure that consumers are able to benefit from the growing choices of taxi services, such as Uber, and the technological changes, that come with them.