Australia is finally getting UberPOOL. But it’s not quite like the service that’s been long available around the world, despite the name.
The service is essentially the same as Uber Express POOL, which the ridesharing company launched in several cities around the U.S. in February, following a successful trial.
It’s launching in Sydney first from Apr. 3, and Uber claims riders can save up to 50 percent on a trip compared to a regular UberX. As the name POOL gives away, you’re sharing a car with riders who are going the same direction as you.
But Sydney’s version, as is the case with Uber Express POOL in the U.S., requires you to wait 1-2 minutes as the app finds the best ride match. Then you may be asked to walk a few blocks to a pickup spot, meaning the driver avoids taking a detour.
In other cities, “traditional” UberPOOL is point-to-point, picking riders up wherever they are. But Uber’s Australian arm skipped “traditional” UberPOOL, because it realised drivers weren’t so keen on detours.
Drivers weren’t so keen on detours.
“With the traditional version of POOL, there’s quite a lot of frustration around having to go around the block a few times to pick someone up, maybe having to backtrack, when you’ve already got a customer in the car who wants the most direct route to their destination,” Uber’s general manager for Australia and New Zealand Henry Greenacre told Mashable.
“So what we’ve found is introducing a little bit of walking, waiting a little bit, we can create an experience which is much more direct for customers.”
In Sydney, UberPOOL will initially only be available between the areas of Bondi in the east, to Leichhardt in the west, and Sydney Harbour to the north, reaching down to Mascot in the south. Melbourne is next on the radar, with a launch slated for the coming months.
Each UberPOOL car will only take a maximum of three passengers, leaving the middle back seat vacant. When booking a ride, riders will need to note if there’s an extra passenger.
To some Sydney residents, UberPOOL is somewhat reminiscent of public, on-demand buses which are available in certain areas. However, these on-demand buses usually only operate during the day, and within a much smaller area than UberPOOL.
For Uber in Australia, the new service is perhaps a welcome differentiator in a quickly crowding market.
In the past three months, plucky competitors like Taxify and Ola have aggressively challenged the ridesharing giant’s stronghold with deep discounting and taking a smaller cut from drivers.