Uber is testing a new carpooling service in what it called its "number one city in the world."
In Chengdu, China, Uber is piloting a program called uberCOMMUTE. It's basically a carpooling feature – targeted at drivers who are already taking long commutes, and may want to haul a few other people around to save some money.
"Drivers sign into the app and tell Uber where they are going. We then show them requests from riders who are traveling in the same direction as well as the payment they will receive for the trip. The driver can then decide whether to accept the request or not. For riders, it’s Uber as usual. They simply select People’s Uber+ (our Chinese UberPOOL service), input their destination and then our systems match them with a driver going the same way," says Uber.
"We’ve chosen China to pilot uberCOMMUTE — the first time we’ve launched a new global product outside the United States — because of the tremendous appetite amongst Chinese drivers and riders for creative new ways to get from A to B, affordably and reliably."
UberChina, you may recall, just raised $1.2 billion.
uberCOMMUTE is a clear play to get more Uber drivers on the road. For every person that doesn't really want to be an Uber driver, there's a person that could, possibly picks someone up in the name of "carpooling" if they're already going that way anyway.
Of course, Uber frames it as a win for congestion.
"Visit most cities anywhere in the world and you’ll hear people complaining — often loudly — about roads being gridlocked, especially at rush hour. But there’s a real alternative to a world that looks like a parking lot and moves like a traffic jam. Partly, it’s about better public transportation, though this takes time and not everyone can live near subway or bus stop. It’s also about new technology because services like Uber can help use the existing infrastructure more efficiently today."
Though starting in China, Uber says it hopes to offer uberCOMMUTE in other cities – over time.