Uber says it's looking toward a future where people won't have to own cars -- they can just use Uber. For this goal, the company is testing an initiative that would drop the cost of an Uber ride by half.
How? By good old fashioned car-pooling. The car-hailing company announced Tuesday that it's immediately rolling out the feature, which it's dubbed UberPool, in private beta and plans to expand the beta more broadly by mid-August.
"The idea is simple," Uber wrote in a blog post. "With UberPool, you share a ride -- and split the cost -- with another person who just happens to be requesting a ride along a similar route."
With UberPool, the app basically works the same. Users hail a car by pushing a button on their smartphone app and when Uber finds a car-pool match it will notify them of their co-rider's first name. If it doesn't find a match, the company said it will still give users a discount on their ride.
"On average, uberX already costs 40 percent less than taxi," Uber wrote. "Imagine reducing that cost by up to another 40 percent! In San Francisco, how about $6 to Uber from the Castro to the Financial District? Or $10 from Sunset to SOMA? At these price points, Uber really is cost-competitive with owning a car, which is a game-changer for consumers."
While cheap rides may sound cool, there is a bit of a weird factor getting into a car with a complete stranger. But, Uber calls UberPooling a "bold social experiment" and said those kinks should be worked out in its beta testing through driver training and feedback from initial riders.
Uber slashed the price of its UberX transportation tier in New York City by 20 percent last month, making its rides cheaper than traditional yellow cabs. But, this move was criticized by the taxi industry as moving into its territory, as well as by Uber drivers who saw lower pay. It seems UberPooling could be another incursion on the stalwart taxi business; it'll be interesting to see if it becomes ammunition for the company's continuing battles with taxi commissions around the globe.