Uber is trying something new in Seattle. Instead of an individual rider linking up with an individual driver, users of the recently introduced UberHOP will walk to a specified location, wait patiently with others for their Uber ride to arrive, then all pile in and be driven along a specific route to one of several predetermined drop off points.
Is UberHOP significantly different than taking a bus? Not really. You still get to walk several blocks to get picked up and then several more blocks to get where you need to go after you are dropped off. You get to wait in the rain with strangers. You get to mingle body odors with others within the confines of a transportation module. There is one difference, though. With UberHOP, you enrich a private corporation rather than supporting a public entity.
First reported by GeekWire, the new Uber service will use UberXL vehicles that hold 6 people. Each passenger will pay a flat fee of $5.00, no matter how many people are riding along at the same time. Drivers are guaranteed a minimum compensation of $35 an hour. Here’s how Uber describes the service on its website:
Open the app and select uberHOP. Choose a route and request an uberHOP.
We’ll pair you up with a driver as well as other commuters traveling in the same direction. You’ll then get directions on where and when to catch your ride.
Using those directions, walk to your pickup location where a driver and your fellow commuters will meet you. You’ll need to be on time as your uberHOP driver will leave promptly.
At the end of your journey, you’ll be dropped off at a pre-destined stop so you can walk the last few blocks to work.
Uber picked Seattle to pilot uberHOP for two reasons. One is that Seattle is a place where “people have a very high aptitude for technology,” according to Uber manager Brooke Steger. Another is that Seattle is experiencing a flood of new residents who work at Amazon and other tech companies. “We all know Seattle has huge congestion problems and there are limited ways for us to expand the current transportation network on the road,” Steger says. “Our goal is to pull people out of personal cars and encourage them to use alternative forms of transportation.”
Uber is experimenting with other innovations in Seattle and other cities. It rolled out its UberSPOT program in Seattle last week, which adds a series of colored lights to the right side of the windshield so passengers can easily identify which Uber car is theirs at locations where several cars converge regularly. It also has an UberPOOL in many cities around the world. That service does come to where riders are, rather than having them make their way to a designated pickup point.
“The goal is to reduce the amount of vehicles on the road, get as many people in each vehicle as possible, and utilize partner drivers already on the system to their maximum capacity,” Steger says. “[UberHOP] is just another experiment with that.”