News National Uber launches new carpool feature in Australia, promising to halve fares

Uber launches new carpool feature in Australia, promising to halve fares

Uber has announced a new carpooling service for its Australian users. Photo: Getty
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Uber has announced a new feature that promises up to 50 per cent discounts for Australian passengers willing to share their rides with strangers.

‘Uber Pool’ will be introduced in Sydney from April 3 and Melbourne by early June, followed by Brisbane and Perth at an unconfirmed later date.

The carpooling feature, first launched in San Francisco in 2014, has been rolled out in more than 30 cities worldwide, with almost one billion carpooled rides.

Uber Pool makes up about 20 per cent of all Uber trips in cities where it is available, such as New York, Paris and London.

How will Uber Pool work?

The Uber Pool feature will match users with other travellers who want to go in a similar direction.

It differs from the standard UberX service in that riders are directed to walk to virtual pick-up points, called ‘markers’, to minimise detours.

Australians will soon have the option to request a Pool service on the Uber app. Photo: Uber

There may be someone else waiting for a ride at this same pick-up point or there may be somebody else already in the Uber car when it arrives.

The car may stop along the journey to pick up other passengers or drop off those carpooling with you.

As well as sharing the ride, passengers will be able to share the cost of their trips, with initial discounts of up to 50 per cent of an UberX fare.

When requesting a Pool service, the rider will be given both a price estimate and a time range estimate.

Surge pricing will apply, dependent on demand, as per normal.

A solution to congestion and pollution?

Uber Australia general manager Henry Greenacre said there would be “thousands and thousands” of GPS ‘markers’ positioned around Sydney for efficient pick-ups and drop-offs.

“No one would need to walk more than 300 metres to a marker,” Mr Greenacre told The New Daily.

“There will be at least a few markers on each suburban street, on both sides of the road.

“We expect to create more markers as we learn more about where Sydneysiders like to be picked up and dropped off.”

He said the carpooling service was not only a cheaper option for passengers, but was also expected to alleviate congestion on Australian city roads as it becomes more popular.

But this relies on a strong uptake of paid carpooling services across Australian cities.

Uber estimates that about 24 million litres of fuel and 56,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide was saved by users opting for a Pool service instead of travelling alone in 2017.

Mr Greenacre said people in the United Kingdom took longer to warm to the idea of sharing a ride with a stranger, while those in Los Angeles almost immediately embraced the new service.

US actress Kristen Bell live-tweeted an awkward, accidental Uber Pool experience in 2015.

Concerns about sharing rides with strangers

While drivers can see the star-rating of passengers before they accept a trip, riders are not privy to the rating of fellow passengers with whom they may end up sharing an Uber ride using Pool.

UNSW’s Dr Rob Nicholls, who has a research interest in the regulation of networked industries, said passengers using Pool should be able to see and choose to accept or deny another passenger a lift based on their rating.

“But you always have the choice to opt for a standard Uber if, for example, it’s after 10pm on a Friday night and you don’t want to risk sharing the car with a drunk stranger,” he told The New Daily.

Dr Nicholls said the service has experienced some teething problems.

“It works for two people sharing a car, but you won’t get a greater discount for travelling with two or three other passengers,” he said.

“Another limitation is that it relies on the second passenger to be ready to go in an instant, otherwise sitting around waiting adds extra time to the journey and can be frustrating for the first passenger.”

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