Uber has announced its latest innovation -- a multi-person, ride-sharing scheme that picks up and drops off passengers along a pre-determined route. It sounds like a bus – and it is a bus. Right now limited to a maximum of 5 riders, but what will the future bring?
The de facto busses run "during commuting hours" as part of a pilot scheme. Uber says the service
is designed not to replace mass transit, but to augment it "at no extra
"Investment in mass transit is an important part of the solution. But
it's expensive and not everyone lives within walking distance of the
subway or a bus stop. Uber helps use today's existing infrastructure
more efficiently at no extra cost," the company wrote in a blog post.
"Today, 76 percent of commuters in the US drive to work by
themselves. If they could easily share the trip (and the cost) with one
or more fellow commuters that would dramatically cut congestion,
improving everyone’s quality of life."
The company also announced a second pilot scheme, this time in
Chicago, for "uberCOMMUTE", a program for drivers who want to recoup the
cost of their commute by sharing the trip. Available between 6am and
10pm in Chicago, anyone with a car will be able to take part if they
give Uber access to their driving record and identity.
Uber said it had been inspired by the success of BlaBlaCar in Europe
(named one of the continent's hottest startups by WIRED) but claimed it
could make the process "more convenient, more reliable and safer" than
competitors. "By making it easy and affordable for people to share
rides, we can get more people into fewer cars," the company explained.