Uber Technologies Inc. will introduce a new carpooling tier to its ride-sharing app in Toronto on Thursday as the company continues its efforts to attract riders and wring more efficiency from drivers.
Uber Express Pool, introduced last year to U.S. cities including Los Angeles and Philadelphia, builds on the multirider, multidestination design of Uber Pool, which launched in Toronto in January, 2016. It connects riders heading in the same general direction, allowing them to share a car for a cheaper trip.
The new Uber Express Pool asks riders to walk as far as 250 metres to meet their vehicle on a route designed to most efficiently serve all riders. Express Pool, the company says, will cost riders about 50 per cent less than its standard, taxi-like UberX service, and will be as much as 30 per cent cheaper than traditional Uber Pool rides.
Uber Pools can sometimes take winding, inefficient routes to pick up and drop off passengers. By asking riders to walk to a specific meeting point, then walk from a drop-off point to their final destination, the company says its algorithms can plot out routes that are more efficient for all involved. Passengers will have to wait two minutes after hailing a vehicle for the app to plot out the route and meeting point that works best for the driver and other riders.
While the company regularly insists that it wants to build upon public transit as part of multimodal urban transportation systems, the Express Pool program brings Uber’s suite of offerings even closer to that of a traditional bus, though with passenger vehicles.
It is unlikely other Canadian cities will see the program soon. The Toronto area is still the only jurisdiction in Canada that has the original Uber Pool option, the company said – a decision determined primarily by demand for its flagship UberX tier.
As of mid-July, Uber had more than 48,000 drivers in Canada, with 2.3 million active riders nationally.
“For Pool to work, you need to have a really, really large volume of transactions,” Rob Khazzam, Uber’s Canadian general manager, said during a press briefing this week when asked by The Globe about Uber Express Pool’s potential in other cities. “We have that today in Toronto, because the Pool product has been tremendously successful. That’s why we’re doubling down and bringing Express Pool here. I think our hope would certainly be to bring it to other markets in Canada, but it’s probably not a realistic 2018 outcome.”
The Toronto region’s Express Pool boundaries will extend to Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan and Markham.
Uber’s chief executive officer Dara Khosrowshahi will be in Toronto on Thursday for a press conference at the MaRS Discovery District entrepreneurship centre, where the company is expected to make a number of announcements.