A few days ago, my 17-year-old sister called me to tell me about her new crush:
“We met in an UberPOOL. After five minutes we totally hit it off and then he invited me to the party he was going to. I said no because I was on my way home, but then after he was dropped off the driver turned to me and asked why I said no such an attractive guy. And then the driver convinced me to go, so he turned around and drove me back to the party.”
Is UberPOOL actually an experimental, exciting new way to meet your next match?
Uber launched UberPOOL on August 5th, 2014 to expand their ride-sharing platform and offer cheaper rides to people who are willing to share their ride with a stranger or two. The service allows as many as two riders per pickup (for a total of four passengers) to travel along similar routes. They can share Uber rides for a 20% to 50% discount on regular fare, depending on the route. By combining riders traveling on similar routes, Uber minimizes the number of drivers they need, which also reduces the number of drivers on the road.
The peer-to-peer economy is trending: it is now socially acceptable to stay in a stranger’s apartment for a fee, to rent a stranger’s car, and to pay a stranger to take care of your pet while you are out of town. The businesses of the sharing economy use technology to make exchanging resources and services easy and cost-effective. UberPOOL captures value by combining individual fares and maximizing the total revenue from a single ride, while minimizing the number of drivers they need. They also capture value by decreasing the number of drivers on the road to enhance traffic flow and meet demand. UberPOOL creates value by digitizing the ride-sharing process, planning an efficient route, providing an affordable rate, and promising timeliness, convenience, and perhaps even a fun experience. An Uber spokesperson says:
“There are many benefits to uberPOOL — some riders have landed job interviews, connected with long-lost friends, and yes, found a date. One lucky couple even got married after meeting in an uberPOOL.”
It is not surprising that sharing an Uber with a stranger late at night in the same direction could turn into a conversation, a friendship, or even a date.
Network effects work in Uber’s favor:
The more people who use Uber =
The more people who try UberPOOL (especially when rates are surged and when you are alone or with one other person) =
The more potential romantic matches made.
The more people who are aware of the possibility of meeting someone in an UberPOOL =
The more single people who try UberPOOL =
The more potential romantic matches made.
Because riders are matched based on location and final destination, UberPOOL also facilitates connections by taking riders to similar locations, and in some cases, to the same event, bar, or neighborhood.
I have taken dozens of UberPOOLs, mostly in San Francisco where UberPOOL has a flat $7.00 fare. In my experience, I have always participated in a conversation with my fellow rider(s) and it has never been awkward. Uber provides the other rider’s first name, making it even easier to initiate conversation. The conversation typically begins with one rider asking the other where he or she is heading, and continues with standard follow-up questions. The type of conversation changes depending on the time of day of the ride, and whether or not you share the ride with one other additional person or a pair.
One major critique of the service is the lack of privacy in the closed, confined environment of a car. In a recent Washington Post article titled, Dear Fellow Rider, Using UberPOOL to Pick Up Dates is Creepy, author Maggie MK Hess criticizes the lack of consent in the ride-sharing “dating scene”:
“The fact of the matter is, Uber and Lyft are not running a dating service, and passengers are not consenting to a romantic or sexual interaction when they request a ride. Riding UberPOOL and Lyft Line specifically to meet dates feels manipulative. Mix in late nights, alcohol and people’s homes, and it feel predatory.”
While the majority of current users view meeting someone as a secondary benefit to getting a cheap ride, there is always a possibility of riders taking advantage of the service as awareness spreads. However, as ride-sharing becomes a new norm of the millennial economy and as UberPOOL’s user-base expands and network effects continue, there will be more trust in the system and more opportunities to meet your next best friend, business partner, or romantic interest on a shared ride home.
Unlike Tinder, at least UberPOOL starts with a conversation #IRL.