UberPOOL: The New and Improved Tinder

Unlike @Tinder, #UberPOOL actually starts with a conversation #IRL. #modernlove

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?

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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.

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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.

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Student comments on UberPOOL: The New and Improved Tinder

  1. Loved this post, Jess!

    They could also take it a step further and maybe partner with dating apps to increase your chances of aligning your UberPOOL matches with your dating app matches 🙂 Or, for the more conservative users, your LinkedIn profile for someone with similar professional interest.

    I also think that we’re at the peak of matching potential among of UberPOOLers. As penetration increases, two average poolers will be like any random two people waiting in line at the post office – not the same generation, and not too like-minded. So… we should take advantage while it lasts?

  2. I totally agree @Asaf! Also, your comment is particularly true because we technically “met” in an UberPOOL, traveling from campus to two separate destinations!

  3. I loved this post! Totally agree with the potential of creating “offline matching” with this new service. I don’t really think that was the main purpose of the service but it definitely provides users with more opportunities to connect with people outside of their phones. In my own experience (and I’ve also heard this from some other dating app users), I don’t feel as excited to go on a first date with someone I haven’t personally met as I would feel when I have a first date with someone who I already know (and like). Generating this first casual, risk-free interaction might solve this problem. Nevertheless, the chances of meeting someone you’ll actually like on a random UberPOOL ride are undoubtedly lower than on dating apps.

  4. What a great and creative post! Really enjoyed reading it. I think, as Asaf and you point out, there could be an interesting service if a ride-sharing service partnered with a dating app, limiting rides to parties of two/the people on the ‘ride date.’ To echo some of the concerns about how conducive ride-sharing in general would be on its own for dating once the service gains more penetration, I think a great example to look at is ride-sharing that has existed for decades in certain countries. I’m thinking of Iran in particular, where ride sharing has been around for decades, to allow people to affordably get around in cities such as Tehran, which are amongst the most congested in the world. The service developed out of pure necessity for another method of transport, priced only slightly higher than bus and metro, thus making it a viable option for the majority of people. Today, with ride sharing being very mature and with high ridership, people actually view this form of getting around as a form of public transport. Ride sharing is an institutionalized service with taxis in Tehran, for instance, and it is price-controlled – because of the maturity of this service, utilization per taxi is very high: the majority of rides have the full number of passengers the taxi can physically fit. Due to this, people either tend to be quiet during the ride, or discuss topics such as the weather, and sports. I know this type of ride sharing has existed for a long time with taxis in many other countries too – seeing the type of behavior that comes with high utilization per car can be an interesting way to consider how we might predict riders’ behaviours shifting with US ride-sharing services such as UberPool as this space matures, and utilization/car goes up. A fun read on taxi ride sharing in Tehran, in case anyone is interested! http://www.theguardian.com/world/iran-blog/2015/may/05/tehran-iran-taxis-transport

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