Uber Launching Carpool Feature in NYC

By Catherine Yang
Catherine Yang
Catherine Yang
December 2, 2014 Updated: December 2, 2014

Come Dec. 4, you can share an Uber ride with a stranger heading in the same direction.

Black car service Uber is adding a feature to its app so when users request a car, they also have the option to request to carpool. Uber then tries to match your trip to another riders’ on a similar route.

People can make a request if they have no more than one other rider with them (two total), and will be matched to one other requester for a maximum of four riders per trip.

The feature will be available on iOS Dec. 4 and on Android Dec. 8, the company announced on its blog.

It could be a price-competitive effort on Uber’s part, which advertises its low-cost uberX line as a cheaper taxi alternative. Riders would save anywhere from 20-50 percent, the blog post points out.

Most Uber trips transport just one or two people, according to the blog, leaving two or three seats empty. Carpooling would incentivize users to split the cost of a ride at the cost of “only a few minutes of time per trip,” according to the blog. And “drivers spend more time earning money on longer trips—without the down time between passengers.”

Carpooling is also good for the environment. There are nearly 2 million cars in the city, and according to the blog post, carpooling ultimately it has the potential to take more than 1 million cars off the road.

The company calculated average passengers per car, and trips per day of both personal and uber vehicles, and then compared that to the number of trips made if the number of passengers per car doubled. Basically, “for every fully utilized uberPOOL car on the road, eight cars could be taken off the road,” according to the blog post.

Sharing trips is not a new idea. The feature launched in San Francisco and Paris earlier this year. Uber’s competitor Lyft has a similar carpool service called Lyft Line, which is available in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Lyft also originally launched as a rideshare service, which is not legal in New York.

In 2013, MIT researchers tracked over 170 million taxi trips in the city in 2011, matching similar trips within a few minutes of each other. The project found that sharing could reduce 40 percent of taxi trips without much inconvenience to passengers.