Carpooling app Carma is opening up its API and offering developers $2.5 million in prizes to bring new features to its real-time car sharing app.

Ride-hailing apps aren’t anything new, of course. Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar all offer ways to connect passengers to rides. What Carma does differently is help commuters to connect with each other, lowering the cost of personal driving — an even cheaper prospect than getting a lift from unlicensed cab drivers. The service, which is available in the San Francisco Bay Area, Austin, Washington, D.C., Bergen, Norway, and Kinsale and Cork, Ireland, also strives to operate in real-time, not just on-demand.

The Carma app uses GPS tracking and matching to bring commuters together, but the company is having difficulty gaining traction. It is hoping the cash prizes will incentivize developers to create functions that draw in new users — perhaps a user messaging system or a way for users to compensate each other.

SOSVentures has been investing in Carma since 2007 and is helping to fund the prize in the hopes that it will drive results for the budding carpooling startup.

Prizes include:

  • $1 million to the first developer who builds an application resulting in 10,000 daily user trips over a 90-day period.
  • $1 million to a Carma employee who creates a feature that delivers 1,000 additional daily trips in a single metropolitan area. (FYI: Carma is hiring and the contest is open to new employees too)
  • $500,000 to be divided up into $25,000 disbursements among 10 development teams with innovative ridesharing ideas and projects. Additional benefits include free office space, facilities (at its headquarters in Cork, Ireland), and mentoring to help the teams grow their ideas. Apply here.