One way to win the ride-sharing war is to be the cheaper alternative.
That’s why Uber says, starting tomorrow, riders in New York City will be able to share a car if they are going the same way. Called UberPOOL, the carpooling option alerts drivers if other passengers are waiting for a ride going in the general same direction. They also, conveniently enough, share the fare. UberPOOL is already operating in Paris and San Francisco.
An UberPOOL ride from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to the East Village in Manhattan which would cost $16 in a yellow taxi would cost as little as $7.50 with the carpooling alternative, according to fare estimates Uber released with the announcement. A ride from the trendy Nolita district in downtown Manhattan to the more centrally located Lincoln Center will cost as little as $10, compared to a $22 taxi fare.
What we can’t stop obsessing about is whether New Yorkers are going to talk to each other in the back of an Uber? Would you stay buried in your smartphone or try to talk to your fellow Uber passenger? Maybe it depends who your fellow carpooling stranger is?
In addition to the less expensive fares, Uber is touting the program’s environmental benefits, making the case that having people share rides will ultimately take extra cars off the road.
To select UberPOOL for a ride around the Big Apple, select “UberX” in the app and then toggle over to “UberPOOL” before setting your pickup destination and location. Android users will have to wait a few days longer than Apple iPhone users to be able to use UberPOOL. The Android app won’t have an UberPOOL option in New York City until Monday, Dec. 8.
Uber isn’t the only ride-hailing app to be playing in this space. Sidecar has also played around with this idea of modern-day hitchhiking. But Sidecar doesn’t operate in New York City. After launching in Brooklyn in March of 2012, Sidecar shut down all New York City operations in May in the face of regulation disputes. The company does have carpooling options in San Francisco, Chicago and San Diego, and is announcing an expansion of shared rides in Washington D.C. and Boston this week, a Sidecar spokesperson says.
Lyst, the pink mustached Uber competitor, also offers a similar carpooling option. But, again, not in New York City. Lyft only offers carpooling services in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The Uber announcement comes on the heels of the company taking heat for its so-called “surge pricing,” where riders are charged at higher rates for cars during rush hour and peak travel times. One local New York City official is pushing legislation to cap Uber fares.
In other Uber news, the company announced a partnership with America Movil, billionaire Carlos Slim’s telecommunications giant in Latin America. The Uber app will automatically be loaded onto some phones in Latin American countries, Uber drivers will get discounted phone packages and first-time Uber customers in the region will automatically get a discount when they download the app.