Via rideshare service brings new twist to commute

No matter where you're heading this morning, there's a growing battle to win your business the moment you leave home and one ride-sharing is getting a lift from technology, reports CBS News correspondent Vladimir Duthiers.

With Via, the rides are shared, and so is the cost.

Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via, described it as being less like a taxi and more like a public bus.

"If you're very lucky you might get to sit by yourself or unlucky [depending on] the way you look at it," he said.

Like its competitors Uber and Lyft, users order Via rides on their smartphones. A computer algorithm uses GPS coordinates to match users with other nearby travelers. Via rides are then shared with up to five people headed in the same direction.

Riders are charged a fare of $5 plus tax to travel across town -- a fraction of what taxis charge and a few dollars more than a bus or subway fare. That low cost has drawn a loyal following of ride-sharers, who then share their experiences online.

"It really allows you to achieve this viral effect where one person knows about the service, loves it, and can tell tens or hundreds of people that they know and care about and bring them into this community," Ramot said.

Since 2013, Via has carried more than 300,000 passengers and now employs around 500 drivers in New York City -- far less than the 14,000 employed by Uber, which was recently valued at $40 billion, making it one of the most valuable startups in the world.

"It does kind of feel that there is some sort of bubble going on," Newyorker.com editor and CBS News contributor Nick Thompson said. "The valuations are crazy."

He said being one of the smaller players is an obstacle Via will have to overcome.

"There are a lot of companies trying to make money on transportation and there are companies making a ton of money on transportation," he said. "So in that way you look at it, yes, maybe Via could be. There are lots of car companies out there."

But Ramot is undeterred and says his company offers something the others do not.

"It's part of this idea that Via is a community, it's shared, you're in the vehicle with other people. That's really what we're striving for," he said.

Uber and Lyft also offer ride sharing options, but Via is the only one to do so at a flat fare.

Currently, the company operates only within a specific part of Manhattan but hopes to expand after securing a $27 million financing deal.