As a company that’s constantly innovating and coming up with new ways to use their service, it’s no surprise that Uber has recently launched a new product known as Uber Express Pool. Uber has a carpool service currently, called Uber Pool. But Uber Express Pool is a new development in the rideshare carpooling world. It’s basically Uber Pool, but slightly more advanced.
So why has Uber added Uber Express Pool to the Uber Pool family? What is it expected to do? How will this affect riders and drivers alike? Read on for all the answers to your Uber Express Pool questions.
What is Uber Express Pool?
At its most basic, Uber Express pool is a carpooling service. Like carpooling to work with a coworker, the intent of Uber Express Pool is to get multiple people to a similar place using the same vehicle. The goal is to make the cost of the trip cheaper for everyone. It’s a way to reduce fares for riders, and also hopefully increase profits for Uber.
The crux of Uber Express Pool, and the thing that makes it the most different from Uber Pool, is their brand new back end, which calculates ride routes in a new way, making it more effective and less confusing for their system. With this technology, they hope to avoid a significant amount of the problems that Uber Pool has, namely extremely inefficient routes that are burdensome not only to drivers, but also to passengers, and Uber as a company.
Now, Uber hasn’t even rolled out Uber Pool to all of the cities they service yet, and it’s safe to say that they’ll want to test out Uber Express POOL in a very limited sense before extending it even just to the cities Uber Pool was servicing. It will also work better in high density urban areas, where many people have need for car rides to similar areas. This means it may never even make it to more suburban areas.
Uber Pool: How does Uber Express Pool work?
With Uber Express Pool, you place your pickup and dropoff spot, just like any other Uber ride. Then, Uber matches you up with another person who’s interested in going to about the same area. You’re each given a place a short walk from you that’s more efficient for the route, and you then wait there for the ride. The Uber picks you up, and you get taken to a dropoff spot that may be a short walking distance from your destination.
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It’s a straightforward system — but then again, so was Uber Pool. The biggest issue that plagues Uber Pool is that the system can pick extra riders up at any point in time, which meas the route would have to be recalculated, potentially making travel and walk time much longer. Sometimes, it would become so mixed up that it would seem less efficient than just taking a normal Uber.
From the way it’s being advertised, Uber Express Pool has fixed some of those issues. Uber states that after you request the ride, you’ll wait “a few extra moments” so they can find other riders that can carpool with you. They then state, “After we map the best trip, we’ll show you where to meet your driver.” Though it’s not explicitly stated, this does seem to imply that, contrary to how Uber Pool worked, their system will map the drive before it even starts.
It’s also not completely clear what “a few extra moments” means. Depending on who you ask, that may mean one or two minutes, or it may mean six or seven minutes. For the heavily reduced fares, it’s not exactly wild to ask for a five to six minute wait time, but that time will depend on how many people there are nearby, and how many of those people are using Uber and interested in carpooling. Depending on time of day and area, wait time to find another rider could be under a minute or over ten minutes, and that unpredictability could turn off potential riders.
With all of these factors, it’s likely that Uber Express Pool will only be used in certain areas, and probably only at certain times as well. However, until Uber gives us those statistics directly, it’s hard to say for sure.
Uber Pool: What will Uber Express Pool change for riders?
With Uber Express Pool, it’s clear Uber is branching out and trying to entice people outside their usual clientele to use their services. This is for good reason, too — Uber is losing a lot of money, and if it doesn’t start making that money back, it’s going to have trouble attracting new capital. Of course, these losses don’t mean Uber is currently going under. Plenty of companies, including big names like Amazon and Twitter, started their now-profitable lives with extremely large profit losses. However, Uber has to turn things around, and fast.
That’s likely why they’re trying to appeal to a new crowd. In the same way that Amazon has managed to maintain startlingly low prices on many products, Uber is trying to maintain a ride cost that is far below the previous standard for taxis. That means reaching out to people who take the bus, and carpool with their friends.
The main drawback to Uber Express Pool is that it will take more time, and it will require walking, rather than just being dropped off directly at your destination. Many people who just take normal Uber drives see this as a significant setback, and for much of that demographic, it is. However, it seems like Uber isn’t trying to use Express POOL to convert existing customers; rather, it appears as though they’re trying to lure in those who primarily use bus and subway systems to get where they need to go.
Uber Express Pool may allow people who would already take the bus to get where they need to go in a way that’s faster, more efficient, and much more affordable than taking an individual Uber. A twenty-minute car ride may take an hour and a half on the bus, and walking time will likely be around the same as with a bus system. While for existing customers, this may seem an unnecessary waste of time and money, it’s fair to say that this system will likely pull in a fairly significant number of new customers.
What will Uber Express Pool change for drivers?
Of course, an important part of the profit and loss structure for Uber right now is that drivers are criminally underpaid, but Uber still can’t maintain their business. While the prices are great for riders, it’s unavoidable that drivers aren’t making enough money to support themselves — in the quest for the lowest possible price, Uber has refused to acknowledge that multiple people need to make a profit in order for the business to be successful.
The thing is, as it stands now, the Uber Pool prices are simply too low. While they’re certainly enticing for people at the moment, Uber can’t sustain those prices in the long run, which means they have to increase the prices at some point if they want to stay in business. Rather than advertising based on price, they need to advertise in some other way, and add value to their business in a completely different fashion. It’s not impossible to make Uber rates lower than taxis while also making them high enough to pay drivers properly and still turn a profit.
It’s true that taxis were already in trouble before rideshare services came about, as it’s one of the things that drove the creation of these services. Many riders can’t pay the high rates of taxis, and some would be extremely happy to cut down on the cost of their rides even further, but they need to take into account the payment of the driver in this equation.
Will Uber drivers refuse Uber Express Pool rides like they have Uber Pool rides?
It’s no secret that many Uber drivers simply refuse to accept Uber Pool rides. Unlike Lyft, Uber pays drivers a lower rate for carpool rides. Since Uber cannot deactivate a driver for not accepting rides, a fair number of Uber drivers will simply turn down Express Pool rides, as they have Uber Pool rides.
The main issue with both Uber Pool and Uber Express Pool, is that Uber itself is refusing to let this strategy make drivers more money. On a carpool trip under Uber Pool’s rates, a full Uber Pool ride brought in approximately 20% more than one single trip. However, they didn’t pay the drivers anything extra. While it’s understandable that Uber wants to make more profit to offset their significant losses, they need to recognize that drivers will want to move away from the service if they don’t feel as though they’re making enough money to sustain themselves. Uber needs both drivers and riders, or their business simply will not function.
Uber needs to come to an understanding with their riders and drivers. Riders need to realize that drivers have to be paid enough to make a living, drivers must enter the industry understanding that the goal is to keep ride prices low, and Uber needs to accept both. Rather than cutting the Uber Express Pool prices so low, it would be much more effective for everyone to just cut them slightly. Perhaps then, Uber Express Pool could actually make Uber more money, make drivers more money, and cost riders less individually, which would make it a win all around.
What is Uber’s concept moving forward with Uber Express Pool?
Interestingly enough, the Uber Express Pool concept does seem to be some kind of first step to integrating Uber with city bus systems. In an interview with Recode in February, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi outright stated that his ultimate goal was not to be seen as a car-for-hire company, but as a full transit system.
“I want to run the bus systems for a city,” he stated, describing his ambitious end goal for Uber. “I want you to be able to take an Uber and get into the subway — if the trains are running on time, you’ve got real-time data — get in the subway, get out and have an Uber waiting for you for right now. Or know that there’s a bike right there for you that gets you where you’re going in the fastest manner.”
In essence, what this means is that Uber is eventually trying to create a full network of transit that works as a one-stop-shop for your transportation needs. You take an Uber to the train station, take the train station across the city, and have an Uber already waiting to pick you up when you get there. It stands to reason that Uber Express POOL is a movement toward that vision.
However, bus systems have historically never been extremely profitable. While it’s an interesting concept, and fully integrating a city’s transit system with a privately-owned rideshare program may end up turning a larger profit, simply trying to replace buses that can hold fifty people with cars that can hold four isn’t exactly a sustainable model. And with all the issues already arising from underpaying drivers by undercharging riders, it’s unlikely that the integration Khosrowshahi has in mind will happen anytime soon — at least, not with this model.
So, what does Uber Express Pool mean for riders and drivers right now?
If you’re not already in a large, extremely urban city, this change likely won’t mean anything. In places that already have a lower demand for Uber & Lyft, the extra time needed to find two or more riders near each other who are interested in going to a similar place is too much to effectively pay off. You may, however, see some new changes if you do live in a highly urban area.
If the limited information we have on Uber Express Pool is correct, this change may not even take off for urban areas. It doesn’t seem as though it’s going to make Uber enough money to continue to be profitable. Unless they’re making money from an unseen part of this system, they may have to either raise prices or scrap the concept altogether.
At the end of the day, Uber, its riders, and its drivers don’t understand each other. As long as they’re constantly fighting, with riders trying to get the lowest price, drivers trying to make enough money, and Uber trying to convince them both to continue using the service so they can make money, the service is likely going to remain stagnant. Uber is losing billions of dollars, and, while investors are covering that because they see the rideshare service taking off in the future, they can’t keep losing money in that way.
Uber Express Pool, though an interesting idea, is not a long-term solution. If Uber wants to go anywhere, they need to look past Uber Pool and Uber Express Pool. Instead, they should start trying the things that could actually save their business.