TORONTO, Canada - Drivers with an empty seat in their car can find people in need of a ride through a new app that connects them with potential passengers nearby.SideCar lets users request a ride by indicating where they would like to be picked up and dropped off. The app matches them with nearby drivers - screened by the company - who are willing to give rides.Director of marketing for San Francisco-based SideCar Blake Wirht said: "We're trying to set up a situation where people share the burden of transportation."TECH CAR-POOLINGWhen someone requests a ride nearby drivers can decide if they want to respond. The passenger can compensate the driver via the app at a suggested fare that often undercuts the cost of a taxi."Longer trips tend to be significantly less than taxis and shorter trips are more on par, but generally it's a better deal," Wirht said.Compensating the driver is voluntary: "We've instituted a community average which shows people what others in the community have been paying for similar rides."He added that donating less than the recommended fare could cause a passenger to get a low rating on the app and deter other drivers from accepting that passenger's future ride requests. Users can also rate each other.Wirht said drivers spanned a range of ages and professions from part-time waitresses to managers at technology companies - even retirees - but some critics have questioned whether accepting a ride with a stranger is wise. Wirht said the company has made the safety of passengers and drivers its core focus.STRANGER DANGER"A driver, to be approved, has to go through a vetting process, a background check, provide proof of insurance, proof of driving license and proof of registration," he said. GPS tracking was also employed and potential passengers had to register with a credit card."We know who everybody is," he said.The app, launched at the end of June, 2012, is available for iOS and Android devices across the US.