Uber, the internationally popular service that connects city-dwellers in need of transportation to the company’s drivers, is beta-testing a new service called Smart Routes in San Francisco.
Originally reported by TechCrunch, Smart Routes is a feature that gives Uber customers the option to turn their taxi ride-like traditional Uber experience into a service more reminiscent of a bus ride. When using the Uber mobile app, which has been the main method of communication between Uber’s users and drivers since the company was founded in 2009, customers can view pre-planned routes along major streets that Uber drivers already travel. The users can agree, via the app, to be picked up and dropped off along one of the routes in exchange for reduced fares. The app then notifies the Smart Route’s driver via GPS, and the driver picks up the customer at an agreed-upon point along the route.
The two Smart Routes that Uber is currently testing in San Francisco, for example, run on major streets through the Marina (Fillmore St. between Haight and Bay) and the Mission district (Valencia St. from 15th St. to 26th St.). The streets were chosen because although they are very highly frequented, the city’s BART subway system does not cover them.
Uber’s new feature is “very similar to how a bus works,” notes a Tech Times reporter, “except it is of course much more comfortable.”
Because of this, the service will be very useful to San Franciscans who need to get somewhere quickly and inexpensively, but do not want to endure the rough experience of a public bus ride. Uber hopes it will also help drivers to make more money by collecting multiple fares at once.
As an Uber representative said in an interview about the service, “Smart Routes is part of our ongoing efforts to increase the efficiency of driver-partners’ time spent on the road while helping riders save time and money.”
Although Smart Routes are currently only available in San Francisco, Uber’s presence in cities all around America and even in many major cities abroad means that people all over the world could be seeing the service in their cities if it proves to be popular among customers and cost-efficient for the company.
Smart Routes are only the latest of Uber’s attempts to expand the types of services it offers. Other recent Uber forays include similar alternative pick-up methods like “Perpetual Rides” and “Suggested Pickup Points” as well as non-transportation-related ventures such as food delivery.
[Image via David Ramos, Getty Images]