Uber’s new carpooling service launches in China

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Ride-hailing company Uber is launching a new variant on its carpooling service in the Chinese city of Chengdu, the company said in a blog post Tuesday.

Dubbed “UberCommute,” the new service builds on Uber’s existing carpooling function in China, with the difference that it matches riders with drivers who are already going to a similar destination as them. It resembles a more traditional idea of carpooling.

This approach to on-demand carpooling is nothing new. Uber’s main rival in the U.S., Lyft, introduced an identical option last November. France-based BlaBlaCar and Zimride, the company Lyft’s founders started before shifting gears, have long provided a similar service for people taking longer trips as an alternative to trains or planes.

Uber usually pilots its new services in its hometown of San Francisco or other major U.S. cities. But China has become a major battleground in the ride-hailing war between Uber and its local competitors, and it’s well suited for this latest service. China’s urban population will grow by an estimated 20 million people per year and the country has 100 cities with populations of more than a million, according to figures provided by Uber rival Didi Kuaidi when it unveiled a partnership with Lyft last week. Only 10% of people in China own cars, versus 80% in the U.S., making it a prime market for ride-hailing and carpooling.

In June, Uber announced that it plans to invest more than $1 billion into its operations in China, and it has similar plans for India.

It’s not clear where next Uber will expand its new commuter feature. It launched its carpooling service UberPool in India earlier this week.

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