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Uber expands carpool service and offers free rides

By Elizabeth Brown     Mar 4, 2016 in Business
In just a year and a half of competing in the carpool industry, San Francisco-based Uber is expanding its new service in several localities in the east Bay Area, the company announced earlier this week.
UberPOOL is already operating in over a dozen U.S. cities, and industry observers expect the continuation of an aggressive expansion strategy — including internationally — to potentially bring millions of commuters into the fold. The first-mover approach can also fend off copycat carpool providers who are thinking of similar crowdsourced methods.
UberPOOL's ride-share program lets passengers commute at a cheaper fare. Given the realities of the current economy, the U.S. carpool market may be larger than initially thought. It's currently estimated that 10 percent of Americans participate in a carpool. However, there are significant cost savings for using a ride-share program, which Uber is betting on to widen its appeal. According to studies, the average carpooler can save hundreds of dollars in commuting expenses per month.
Free rides
Uber is currently promoting its carpool service in a bid to appeal to cost-conscious and environmentally-audiences, as well as, the younger crowd. This weekend, users of UberPOOL can get up to four free rides by using a partner credit card, according to its blog. (Passengers must use their Capital One card and enter the promo code "CAPITALONEPOOL" on the Uber app.) The promotion will last from March 4 through March 6 and will be available in San Francisco, Oakland, Washington DC, New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Austin, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta and Philadelphia.
In the past, Uber has leveraged similar offers with credit card partner Capital One (such as 20 percent back on all rides when using a Quicksilver card) which are designed to generate goodwill, positive publicity, and word-of-mouth hype. These approaches seem to be highly effective in the age of mobile and social media.
Expansion plans
Uber positions itself as a green-conscious company. And thus, it's touting the carpool service's environmental benefits. "[UberPOOL now makes up nearly half of Uber’s trips in [San Francisco]," according to the company. "In one month alone, the service saved 120 tons of carbon dioxide emissions when compared with non-pooled trips, the equivalent to the output of over 128,000 pounds of coal."
Success in the U.S. could mean further international growth. UberPOOL's plan for expansion includes cities in Europe, Asia, and Australia. It certainly helps to have an estimated market value of nearly $50 billion, giving Uber the means of raising more than enough capital to fund its growth initiatives.
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