Uber's big update in New York makes it much more like a private bus

Uber began as a luxury product, making a black car available at the press of a button.

Now six years later, the company has decimated the taxi industry and may have a new target: public transportation.

On Monday, Uber announced that it was changing how its carpooling product, UberPool, works in New York City.

The typical UberPool ride means a driver will pick a passenger up wherever they are and drop them off at their final destination — the difference being that along the way, the driver might be picking up and dropping off other riders during a trip.

Starting Monday in a pilot phase, New York City’s new version of UberPool is keeping the carpool aspect, but instead moving the pick-up and drop-off points to street corners. Instead of showing up right in front of your doorstep, the app will direct you to a corner nearby to wait for your ride.

During peak commuter hours (7-10 am and 5-8pm, Monday through Friday), Uber will only charge $5 for these UberPool rides starting and ending in Manhattan. And that price will never increase from surge pricing.

On nights and weekends — the corner pick-ups are only between 7am-8pm — it will revert back to dropping you off at your door.

It’s a lot of changes, but if you add together the low-cost flat fare pricing and ushering riders to stand together on corners, the UberPool changes start to sound a lot more like a private bus line.

And it should. The same team that worked on the project also built Uber’s practically-identical-to-a-bus product, UberHop. In Seattle, Manila, and Toronto, UberHop runs fixed, low-price routes for commuters.

The only difference between UberHOP and the new pilot in New York City is that New Yorkers don’t have to follow a fixed route.

At $5 a ride, it’s almost double the cost of a $2.75 bus fare in New York, but to some New Yorkers, the extra $2 may be worth a semi-private and mostly direct ride to work.

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