Uber has begun testing a new feature called "smart routes," which will essentially trade a little convenience for a cheaper way to get places.
Rather than being able to hail a ride directly to where the user is, a green line on the mpa within the Uber app outlines the route of the car and the user must meet the car along that route. It's very similar to how a bus works, except it is of course much more comfortable. For those who use these smart routes, Uber will offer a discount of $1 or more off the normal UberPool price.
"We have begun testing a new feature to streamline the UberPool experience for both riders and drivers," said Uber in an interview with TechCrunch. "This experimental feature, called 'Smart Routes,' aims to simplify pick-ups by encouraging riders to request a ride along specific routes in San Francisco."
There are a number of advantages to smart routes for drivers, too. The new feature is part of Uber's ongoing effort to try and maximize the driver's time and money that can be made. The new system will make for far fewer detours that the driver has to make. When a driver has to make a detour, it wastes the time of the driver, and in turn the gas that the driver is using. Drivers can also finish UberPool rides quicker than was otherwise possible, in turn enabling them to pick up more passengers faster. In theory, Uber will profit from smart routes, even if it has to give out discounts to entice users to take advantage of the new feature.
The feature is very reminiscent of Lyft's HotSpots option, which allows users to walk to a specific corner or location in order to get a discounted fair.
Uber is testing out a number of other alternative pick-up methods for its users. Perpetual Rides, for example, is a way for Uber drivers to continuously pick up people when they have an open seat, rather than having to complete a ride before picking up a new user.
Uber is testing at least two options for smart routes in San Francisco, however, if successful, it is likely that it will begin to test the new feature outside of that city.