Third Video Blog Entry
My Thoughts and Responses to UberPOOL
Written Transcript: [Venice, FL] Hi y'all! Patrizio Murdocca here, Chief Web Developer at Drover Rideshare. Today, I want to talk to you about UberPOOL; it's like carpool, but Uberfied. Uber, the popular rideshare service, has recently launched a product called UberPOOL within their app, that now adds an additional hailing option to the traditional UberX, UberXL, UberBlack, etc. With UberPOOL, a rider can elect to share the remaining seats in their vehicle with other riders along the course of their ride.
Let me explain that better. Let's say you are a single person and you request UberX and you get matched with a Nissan Altima, which is a 5-person car with passenger seats (excluding the driver's seat). You make one more seat, so there are now three empty seats inside of your hypothetical Nissan Altima ride. With traditional UberX, you and your driver would stay together throughout the duration of your ride without anyone else in the vehicle, and when you get to your destination, you Uber driver will drop you off and then they will accept another ride.
With UberPOOL, on that hypothetical Nissan Altima ride, other riders that participate in UberPOOL can actually be matched with you mid-ride, occupying however many open seats there are in the vehicle in addition to those occupied by your party. This is a recently launched feature in a few cities. Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of the few cities in which they have launched UberPOOL. I opted to use UberPOOL most of the time that I was there, in favor of the familiar UberX.
I wanted to make this video to provide my first-hand look into UberPOOL, this brand new feature that Uber has launched in select cities. My basic takeaways are:
First off, the only reason I learned about UberPool is because I first used the Google Maps app, which, under the rideshare section (vs car, walking, biking, etc), listed UberPOOL as different from UberX, and at cheaper prices. On my phone, however, the connection between Google Maps and Uber wasn't very smooth. I close out both apps several times and ultimately just go through the Uber app directly. It wasn't that much of an inconvenience, but I just wanted to relay my experience. The other issue was that UberPOOL isn't immediately an option. The option to choose UberPOOL only populates once you select 'UberX' and then enter your start and destination points. At that point, you are given the option to take UberPOOL and share your Uber car or hail a private ride/car at UberX prices.
Once you get over those inconveniences, you start experiencing the features I really liked about UberPOOL. To begin with, UberPOOL prices are significantly cheaper. Instead of a traditional meter price (for the rider), where you do not know what your fare is going to be until you complete the app, you get a flat rate cost -- guaranteed flat rate cost -- of what your ride will cost, before you even request your Uber. I thought this in and of itself was a phenomenal feature -- to actually know what your ride will cost ahead of time. Additionally, that flat rate cost for UberPOOL was about one half or one third as expensive as a traditional UberX ride would have costed. For example. I took a 9 mile Uber ride from UPenn campus to Penn's Landing. That was only $4.20, and that included me indicating that I had a plus 1 in my party. (They charge you a small, additional fee for passengers in your party). By contrast, a traditional UberX ride of that distance would probably have been $12, given moderate to high traffic. You can't beat the price.
Another fun thing about UberPOOL is that you usually do get other passengers in your ride. Traditionally, if you are going somewhere with people you do not know, it is via public transportation. However, UberPOOL puts you in a car full of people you do not know. At first it was a bit awkward, but overall, I really enjoyed the experience because we all often had a larger conversation that reduced the awkwardness of having an individual conversation in car with only your driver. I can't report any negative experiences in terms of people I shared my UberPOOLs with.
One part that I did not like about UberPOOL was that the routes were not always efficient. Often, we would pick up a rider about half way to my destination, but then it wasn't clear if I was supposed to be dropped off first or if the new passenger was to be dropped off first. I experienced being the first person in the ride, yet the last to be dropped off, which really didn't make sense... all the add-on passengers we picked up along the way got dropped off before me.
Then, I asked the Drivers what they experience driving for UberPOOL. Do they get paid the incredibly low flat rate costs of my rides? Moreover, I actually experienced several UberPOOL rides in which we got matched with no one and I was alone for the duration of the ride - yet I paid UberPOOL prices. So, I asked a couple of my UberPOOL drivers, "are you being shortchanged by this?". Short answer, no. They explained to me that, as a driver driving for UberPOOL, you have the same user experience as for UberX. Meaning, UberPOOL drivers still get a base fare, and then meter pricing for miles and minutes. If anything, UberPOOL meter fares are marginally higher than UberX fares. For them, it doesn't make a difference, if anything they make more money with UberPOOL. I was happy to hear this, in that UberPOOL drivers aren't only making the small flat rate fares riders get charged when they use UberPOOL.
What Uber is actually doing, is subsidizing the cost of UberPOOL rides. Meaning, they pay the driver the difference between the meter-based fare the drivers earn and the flat rate cost for UberPOOL rides that they charge riders. I suppose they are doing this to keep UberPOOL prices down and try to increase use of this new feature. Personally, I experienced a lot of empty UberPOOL rides (besides me), where no one else joined in.
I think that UberPOOL is cool, but can only work in large cities with large demand. It is really good that it further promotes decreasing the number of cars on the roads.
Overall, I think it is a cool feature, and maybe as Drover expands into larger markets, we will consider implementing something similar.
In the meantime, I have gotten reports from the App Development team here at Drover that we are making great progress with the app. Stay tuned for future videos on our app and Drover merchandise.
Thank you for watching, and have a great day.
Patrizio Murdocca is Chief Web Developer at Drover Rideshare, a student at Vanderbilt University, and President of Interfaced Ministries (www.interfacedministries.org).