Uber is my one of my favorite innovations for ground transportation. When public transportation in a city isn’t good, I used to get really frustrated by the lack of options and taxi “mafias,” though fortunately Uber has solved that problem. They have Uber Black, which is the “standard” service and a bit more than a taxi, while they also have UberX, which is usually cheaper than a taxi. And thanks to the instant feedback loop (you rating the driver and the driver rating you), service is excellent across the board, in my experience.
Yesterday Uber announced their latest innovation, entitled UberPool. As you may have guessed based on the name, Uber is now experimenting with the carpool business.
Per Uber’s blog, here are the basics:
UBERPOOL – THE IDEA
The idea is simple. With UberPool, you share a ride—and split the cost—with another person who just happens to be requesting a ride along a similar route. The beauty, though, is that you still get Uber-style on-demand convenience and reliability: just push the button like before and get a car in five minutes. When we find a match, we notify you of your co-rider’s first name. Even if we don’t find an UberPool match for you, we’ll give you a discount on your ride.
WHY WE’RE SO EXCITED
While the UberPool idea is simple, the implications are profound. On average, uberX already costs 40% less than taxi. Imagine reducing that cost by up to another 40%! In San Francisco, how about $6 to Uber from the Castro to the Financial District? Or $10 from Sunset to SOMA? At these price points, Uber really is cost-competitive with owning a car, which is a game-changer for consumers.
This is also a bold social experiment. There’s the interaction between riders in an UberPool—should they talk to each other? When is that cool and when is it, well, annoying? We’re going to find out how this brave new world of UberPooling works—we’ll iterate on this beta product and get it right, because the larger social implications of reducing the number of cars on the road, congestion in cities, pollution, parking challenges… are truly inspiring.
WHEN DO WE LAUNCH?
This is rolling out immediately in private beta. Because UberPool is an early beta product, there will undoubtedly be kinks and surprises to work through. Throughout the beta, we’ll be training more drivers and getting feedback from initial riders and drivers doing UberPool rides. Our friends at Google will also be joining us in the beta. They share our vision of a more energy-efficient world with less traffic congestion and pollution in our cities and are excited to be early adopters of UberPool. We will expand the beta more broadly on August 15th.
This definitely has the potential to be extremely useful. First Uber innovated the limo industry with Uber Black (making it cheaper and more on demand), then they innovated ridesharing with UberX (making transportation more reliable and cheaper than taxis in most cases), and now they will potentially be innovating carpooling with UberPool (making Uber a fraction the cost of a taxi).
It’ll be interesting to see how this is rolled out. What I find most intriguing is that they’ll apparently give you a discount on your ride if they’re not able to match you with someone. I’m curious how they plan on doing that in practice, and how big the discount will be.
If you’re not yet an Uber member, you can sign up for Uber now and get a free ride of up to $30. You can sign up using my referral link or feel free to post your link below and people can sign up through there. Once you’ve signed up with a referral link you can immediately apply your credit of up to $30 towards a free ride.
Would you use a carpooling option like UberPool if it were available in your city?
(Tip of the hat to Hans)