Uber’s new innovation is set to come to Sydney next week. Picture: Josh edelson
Uber’s new innovation is set to come to Sydney next week. Picture: Josh edelson

Uber just got a whole lot cheaper: Sharing the rideshare

RIDE-HAILING service Uber is set to launch a new product in Australia that will allow users to take trips at half the cost and could help reduce congestion on our cities busiest roads.

The company is about to go live with its long-awaited car pooling option, UberPOOL, on April 3 in Sydney before rolling it out more broadly.

Users of the app will be offered the choice of sharing the ride with others looking to take a similar journey. Basically, if you and a stranger are travelling from roughly the same place to roughly the same place, you can share the ride in an UberPOOL. It adds "a few extra minutes to your trip" according to Uber, and costs half the price of taking your own personal UberX vehicle.

UberPOOL was first launched in the US a few years ago and has been operating in other markets for some time but the version coming to Australia has been tweaked a little bit, said Uber's Head of Cities for Australia and New Zealand, Henry Greenacre.

"What we learned pretty quickly was that there were parts of the app that riders and drivers loved, and there were parts that we needed to improve on. So the team went away and we've made some wholesale changes to the way that UberPOOL works," he told news.com.au.

In the version to be rolled out it Sydney next week, "there is a little bit of walking and a little bit of waiting in order to save an extra amount of money on your trip."

The company has used the past four or five years of data from UberX rides in the city to identify the best pick-up and drop-off spots and calculate the most common and efficient routes.

"We've then had whole teams of people walking through the streets of Sydney double checking what the data is telling us," Mr Greenacre said.

"The key here is that people already in the car don't have to deviate too far away from a direct route in order to pick up other customers," he said.

The more popular the route, the cheaper the price could be.
The more popular the route, the cheaper the price could be.

To begin with, UberPOOL rides will be a standard 50 per cent cheaper during popular commuting hours but ultimately the level of discount will depend on the popularity of your route.

"The more likely it is that we can match you moving in a similar direction at a similar time as someone else, the bigger the discounts we can offer," Mr Greenacre said.

While riders are looking at the potential for significant discounts, drivers on the other hand "shouldn't see any major impact on what they earn."

With newcomer Taxify and the potential that rive ride-hailing app Lyft will enter the Australian market, Uber doesn't have the ride-sharing market all to itself.

UberPOOL will also be competing with Sydney start-up Carpool Club which recently launched in Sydney.

Uber has had to tweak the function of the app after first rolling it out in the US.
Uber has had to tweak the function of the app after first rolling it out in the US.

New research has shown, contrary to initial assumptions, that ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft have actually added to the number of cars on the road, increasing congestion and pollution in major cities.

The research suggest the services are actually pulling people off public transport, bicycles and their own feet and putting them in cars instead thanks to the added convenience and cheaper cost. "The emerging consensus is that ride-sharing is increasing congestion," said Christo Wilson, a professor of computer science at Boston's Northeastern University.

But Uber hopes its new option will insulate it against such criticisms.

"We strongly believe that UberPOOL is part of a solution to putting more people into fewer cars" and the technology is finally sufficient enough to facilitate that, Mr Greenacre said.



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