Uber tests new carpooling service in China

The new UberCommute service will be rolled out in other cities around the world

Riders in Chengdu, China will be able to cut travel costs by using a new carpooling service that Uber Technologies is testing in the country for the global market.

Using UberCommute, drivers sign into the app and tell Uber where they are going, the ride-hailing app company announced in a blog post Tuesday. The app then shows the driver requests from riders traveling in the same direction as well as the payment they will receive for the trip. The driver then decides whether to accept the request or not.

While all this may appear similar to the company's UberPool service, already in operation in many locations, UberCommute is designed to give an opportunity for commuting drivers to reduce costs on routine trips, company spokesman Karun Arya wrote in an email. 

"With uberCOMMUTE, drivers only pick up one rider going in the same direction during morning or evening commuting hours," Arya said. UberPool trips, in contrast, "can have multiple riders with the potential to generate a perpetual trip where the driver is fully utilized,"  he added.

Riders in Chengdu will select People’s Uber+, the company's UberPool service in China, enter their destination and the company's systems then matches them with a driver going the same way, according to Uber.

The company said the pilot of UberCommute was the first instance of it launching a new global product outside the U.S.

The decision to launch in China is likely linked to the traffic congestion in some of its cities, and the drive for lower fares, which make carpooling attractive. Uber is also battling in the country with its large Chinese rival Didi Kuaidi, which said recently it expanded its service, including taxi hailing, private car, carpooling and bus sharing, to 360 cities in China through its mobile apps, servicing 200 million people in total.

Didi Kuaidi announced this month a US$100 million investment in Lyft, another Uber rival, which will allow Lyft users visiting China to access Didi Kuaidi services from their native apps, while offering a similar facility to Didi Kuaidi users visiting the U.S.

Uber expects its carpooling services to be relevant in other markets besides Chengdu, helping reduce traffic congestion. "In many cities, such as San Francisco, New York, Chengdu or Paris, so many people now use Uber that there are a ton of duplicate rides — passengers wanting to get to the exact same place at the exact same time," it said in the post.

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John Ribeiro

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