Uber is currently testing a feature in a few neighborhoods in Boston and San Francisco called Uber Express POOL.
Like the regular version of Uber POOL, this is a shared ride. But with Express POOL the app now automatically generates “smart spots” that are easy to drive to and close to the origin and destination of multiple passengers.
So instead of a direct pick-up and drop-off, you now need to walk a few blocks to one of these dynamically created “smart spots.” In exchange for the added inconvenience, you get 25% off your fare.
What’s immediately fascinating about this feature is that it further blurs the line between Uber and public transit. These “smart spots” are effectively low-volume and ephemeral transit stops that pop-up based on demand and then disappear.
It makes the notion of a fixed stop and transit schedule, particularly in low usage areas, seem inefficient. Now imagine if we created some sort of visual marker on the street every time a “smart spot” was emerging based on demand.
It is clear that Uber is trying to price these rides so that they are competitive with conventional public transit. And there’s no reason that this technology couldn’t also be applied to larger vehicles, such as buses.
I find this fascinating. And it’s a perfect example of what we talked about in yesterday’s post. This is software and networks being layered on top of the built environment.