Online cab aggregator Uber has announced that it will launch its car-pooling product UberPOOL in Bangalore in beta in the coming weeks. UberPOOL currently exists in San Francisco, New York city, Boston, Austin and Paris where it has been around for a few months. 

When asked about the pricing details the company told MediaNama that it had not locked down on UberPOOL’s pricing yet, but it had the potential to offer savings of 50% or more. As to whether it had hired separate drivers for UberPOOL, Karun Arya, Uber’s Uber’s communications lead for Southeast Asia and India, said that UberPOOL drivers ‘tend to be on-trip a larger percentage of the minutes of an hour’, resulting in added income. “And we’re always targeting a certain income level and we want to make sure that we achieve at a minimum level for drivers, and we wouldn’t do UberPOOL if it compromised that,” he added, saying that drivers were charged to a service fee to use the service.

UberPOOL will allow users to share rides while splitting the costs on going on similar routes. UberPOOL will be launched in some other cities in India soon, after the company gains insights into commuter adoption and usage from the Bangalore pilot. Uber cites a Bangalore Mirror report from earlier this month where the Bangalore Traffic Police has pitched a carpooling campaign by this month end, especially targeted at vehicle owners in the Iblur, Bellandur, Marathalli and Whitefield areas.

UberPOOL was born as a ‘bold social experiment’ beta product in August last year. Uber claimed that at that time, on an average, UberX cost 40% less than other taxis. It also interestingly mentioned about the interaction between ride-sharers as to whether it was cool for riders to talk to each other, what would and would not be annoying in a shared ride etc to improve its product. UberPOOL was also joined by its ‘friends at Google’ in beta to share its vision of a ‘more energy efficient world with less traffic congestion and pollution’. Check out UberPOOL NYC’s drivers FAQ page here

Interestingly, a VentureBeat report from earlier this month quoted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick as saying that UberPOOL was not ‘as profitable as the rest of Uber’s offering’, but he was not worried given that ‘it’s all about inducing carpooling in all the cities’ it operated in. Kalanick also said that over 100,000 people across its markets were using the UberPOOL service.

Uber claims that its drivers make 10-15% more from UberPOOL, as compared to drivers on the Uber platform. Also, riders won’t be able to change their pickup and drop location once a UberPOOL has been requested.

In India, Uber currently claims to have 165,000 drivers on its platform and is present in 22 cities. It also claims to have a 40% month on month growth, with a market share of over 40% in the country. Globally, Uber is present in 339 cities and 60 countries.

Driver charges for using the platform
Earlier this month, online cab aggregators Ola and Uber started charging their drivers Rs 300 a week to try and prevent them from using other aggregating platforms. This charge, which applied regardless of usage, was being attributed to phone, mobile Internet connections and other services provided by the aggregators. It’s not clear if Uber will sign up new drivers for carpooling, or use its existing driver base, or whether they would be charged the same for the new service.

TOF funding
In August, Uber received an injection of funds from Tata Opportunities Fund (TOF) to expand its services and solutions in India, by making use of TOF’s network within the Tata Group and outside of it.

Note that last week, ridesharing app BlaBlaCar (which will compete indirectly with UberPOOL) raised $200 million in a series D round of funding led by Insight Venture Partners, Lead Edge Capital and participation from Vostok New Ventures. The company said that it would use the investment to accelerate growth in Europe and focus on existing markets like India.

Currently, there aren’t many ridesharing apps/providers in the country, but competition for UberPOOL includes online aggregators like TaxiForSure, Ola, Ibibo’s Ryde (currently operational only in Delhi and a few neighboring cities) and Rocket Internet-backed Tripda (primarily operates in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Delhi).

Check out our recent two part interview with Uber’s Karun Arya here and here, and our Uber coverage here