Uber is piloting a new feature called UberHop in Seattle, in which multiple riders who are traveling a similar route are paired with the same driver. These riders are given directions to a pick-up location and a time when the driver will arrive. The rider will be expected to walk a little ways to the pick-up location, as well as to their final destination from the drop-off location.
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Uber is also piloting its Commute feature in Chicago. Car owners interested in picking up a few fares on their commute to and from work can share their routes, as well as driver’s license, with Uber to sign up. Uber would then pair those drivers with other commuters going in the same direction.
But these features also feed into larger, more complex goals of Uber. As people move to cities, and mass transit gets more congested, Uber is seen as positioning itself as the guileless alternative. CEO Travis Kalanick has discussed the concept of “the perpetual trip” for Uber drivers, with pickups and drop-offs synchronized in such a way so that a driver’s car is never empty.
A big unanswered question, though, is how much this is costing Uber. When a rider selects the Pool option, but the driver fails to find another fare, Uber covers the difference between the discounted and regular fare. The company is reportedly burning through money faster than it can earn it.