You may soon be accompanied by a total stranger in the backseat of your Uber ride.
That’s if you decide to use UberPool, which has now arrived in Sydney.
UberPool is the carpooling feature of the ridesharing giant, designed to reduce traffic on the roads and save riders money.
Although it has been around since 2014 and is now established in cities right around the world, the service had previously not been available in Australia.
“UberPool makes it easy and affordable for people going in a similar direction to share the trip,” said Uber General Manager, Australia and New Zealand, Henry Greenacre.
“It’s carpooling at the push of a button. That means cheaper rides for passengers and less congestion on the city’s streets over time.
“We’re excited to finally bring UberPool to Australia to kickstart a new wave in the share economy that will help our cities move more efficiently over time.”
The ride can be shared with at least one other Uber user, with a maximum of three passengers per car.
This means savings of up to 50% are possible, compared to the cost of an UberX.
Additionally, if one passenger requests the UberPool ride and cannot be matched with another user travelling on the same route, the reduced UberPool price will still be given.
Comparison site finder.com.au found a 47% saving on a short journey through Sydney’s CBD when using UberPool over UberX.
The service is initially being offered in a small region surrounding the Sydney CBD, including parts of the inner west and Eastern suburbs, with plans for expansion into other major cities around the country.
While it is being branded as UberPool by Uber, the service being offered in Australia differs slightly from the traditional point-to-point UberPOOL model, where all users are picked up and dropped off at their requested location.
Australia will instead receive a version of Uber Express Pool.
This version requires users to wait one to two minutes after they have requested a ride while the app finds them a suitable match for the ride.
The user is then assigned a pickup spot, which they must walk to so that the driver can avoid taking a significant detour.
Once in the ride, passengers will be dropped off close to the required destination, again requiring a short walk.
According to Uber, it may be up to a 300 metre walk to the designated pickup or drop-off spot.
Uber Express Pool only began to be rolled out in the United States earlier this year, in response to complaints from drivers, and to create an even more affordable service for customers.
By designating pick-up and drop-off spots there is less circling and back-tracking for the driver, allowing for the most direct route possible.
However, different to Uber Express Pool, the Australian version allows for more than one pickup and drop-off location.