Tuesday morning at Nissan Headquarters in Franklin, the global car company announced a partnership with ride-share app Hytch. With a new smartphone application, the companies hope to increase carpools and reduce congestion — and to do it by paying people who participate.

Mark Cleveland, Hytch founder, and William Mattiace, a Nissan communications manager, took reporters along for the first official ride to demonstrate how the app works.

The app, Hytch Rewards, lets you set up shared rides with people in your contact list, not strangers, and rewards all involved with 5 cents per mile for an act that takes a car off the road. Cleveland said he hopes to get that up to more than 50 cents per mile, eventually. The app will be available for download on February 9, and anyone can sign up early here.

“We are excited to be doing something here that we hope will help with congestion, and that we with Hytch have been working hard for a long time on,” Dan Teeter, director of vehicle connected services for Nissan North America, said.

Last summer Cleveland founded Hytch, a free app hoping to “build carpooling into the mass transit solution of today” by connecting people with similar commutes to share rides. The process is coming to fruition now with the February launch.

This new partnership with Nissan, and the new app, takes things a step further by paying riders. Payments are received through PayPal, and are redeemable in increments of $10.

The idea taps into the huge opportunity for carpooling not being taken advantage of.

“We’re a car culture in Nashville and in the state of Tennessee, yet we’ve got the sixth-most HOV lane miles of anywhere in the country,” Cleveland said. “We have the infrastructure of a car-sharing culture, but we just have [the wrong] carrots and sticks, so we all pile onto the highway at the same time and act like we’ve got a problem when in fact we have an opportunity.”

Hytch takes that opportunity, and puts it to work to reduce the number of cars on the road, improve air quality, and reduce parking issues.

“The only way to address traffic congestion is to create car-centric incentives to take cars off the road,” Cleveland said.

The incentives, he said, are a way to create a “necessary evolution” of driving behavior.

Hytch’s mission is to take cars off the road by building a virtual mass transit network using free technology that everyone can use to easily get neighbors into the empty seats of existing cars on the road. By using Hytch tracking systems for safety, reliability and payment processing, you share the cost of a ride. 

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