An innovative start-up company are trialling their new rideshare service in Paekākāriki.
Hitch, the brainchild of Claudia Grave and Todd Foster, is still in its development stage, but since being part of Creative HQ's Climate Response Accelerator programme, the duo have been able to work on the start-up fulltime.
"We were sitting in a cafe one day, watching the traffic go by and looking at all the single occupant vehicles," Claudia said.
"We realised how crazy it was and started doing a bit of research into how many Kiwis travel to work by car.
"We found that every day 1.5 million Kiwis travel to work in private vehicles, most of them alone. That's 5.5 million empty seats, each day."
This led them to looking at statistics around this contribution to climate change, traffic congestion, infrastructure, roading, and the high cost of travel.
"We set ourselves on a path of looking at how we can solve this problem and were thinking about carpooling, and that's how Hitch was born."
Hitch is a digital platform that reduces empty seats by connecting car commuters heading in the same direction at the same time, filling up cars rather than filling up the road.
Hitch makes carpooling flexible, convenient, and cost-effective, giving car commuters the opportunity to do their bit for the environment.
Working on it here and there, a few hours at a time, Claudia and Todd were recently accepted into Creative HQ's Climate Response Accelerator programme which provides them with equity-free funding, mentorship and the tools and resources to help them advance at each stage of their start-up, enabling them to go fulltime with Hitch for 12 weeks.
The Climate Response Accelerator is designed to help impact-focused entrepreneurs solve some of our planet's most urgent challenges.
"We are kicking off some trials around New Zealand targeting different experiences," Todd said.
"We have a number of assumptions which we want to put to the test to prove them out, a lot of the places we are looking at have quite different experiences when it comes to getting to work."
Paekākāriki has been chosen because it is unique in many ways.
"We are trialling a simplified version of our final product which is essentially a tool to connect people heading in the same direction.
"Paekākāriki is interesting to us because it's a small, tight-knit community so we are wondering if there will be more interest than other communities because of that tight-knit culture.
"The other interesting thing is that it's quite a long commute compared to others."
Other trials in places such as Karori in Wellington City have generated a lot of uptake already.
"We've had a lot of uptake from people in Karori, which is a very different commute to Paekākāriki, it is a lot shorter and the public transport options are different."
Targeting those travelling from Paekākāriki to Wellington, being a long commute, has also got Claudia and Todd thinking about how they can match people up with others who have similar ideas around conversation.
"Our vision is that we are trying to be as flexible and administrative-free as possible for users," Claudia said.
"We are trying not to go into the trial with Paekākāriki with pre-conceived ideas. We've looked into statistics and commuting patterns available from Statistics New Zealand but the trial is all about us getting first-hand information and talking to the locals," Todd said.
As numbers increase, the final product will slowly be rolled out following the trial, with flexibility and more options added as more people sign up and start using the service.
A major part of their focus has been on sustainability and creating an innovative product which helps people do their bit for the environment.
"We are just really excited about launching this from a sustainability angle.
"Every empty seat we fill is a win for the planet, that's our focus and our vision at the moment."
You can sign up for Hitch by visiting hitcharide.co.nz and will be notified when the service is available in your area.