Uber Express Pool links riders in the same area who want to travel to similar destinations. Once linked, riders would need to walk a couple of blocks to be picked up at a common location. File photo: Seth Wenig / AP

San Francisco, California - Uber has added an express car pool to its ride-share options in its bid to become part of people's daily commutes.

Express Pool was officially launched in a handful of US cities on Wednesday, billed as an improvement on a car pool offering Uber has provided since 2014.

Rather than have a driver travel to where each passenger is waiting for a ride, the new Express option will calculate the most direct route to the final destination and then have people walk to the closest pick-up spots on that route.

Uber shared rides product director Ethan Stock explained: "Riders wait a few minutes before their trips begin, and then walk a short distance to a nearby spot for pick up and drop off.

"Walking and waiting helps us make more optimal matches and provide better, straighter, faster routes with fewer detours, delivering an even more affordable and consistent option."

Convenience

Nearly a billion riders have used Uber's original car pool service, said Stock. Car pooling leads to cheaper fares, and lets drivers take advantage of high-occupancy vehicle lanes or discounted tolls where available.

Using feedback from those riders, Uber "built the next generation of shared rides from the ground up," Stock said. Uber's software considers compatibility of passengers, proximity of drivers, and convenience of drop-off and pick-up locations, he added.

Space-efficient

Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase said: "The future of transportation in cities includes a shift towards more space-efficient modes of transportation and away from personal car ownership.

"Express Pool, together with public transport, cycling, car-sharing and more, can help us get towards this shift, and I'm extremely excited about the potential impact this product can have on cities."

A low-cost, convenient car pool service could also compete with public transport systems for commuter fares.

Uber tested Express Pool in San Francisco and Boston, and is expanding it to six more US cities with the official launch this week.

Agence France-Presse