UberPool on an iPhone

Uber likes to undercut conventional taxi pricing, but it can get expensive if you're by your lonesome -- just ask anyone who has had to pay surge pricing to get to the airport. You may not have to cough up the full amount the next time you're going solo, though. The company has just launched the beta for UberPool, a service that has you sharing a car with strangers. If you're a tester, Uber will try to match you up with another person who's taking a similar route; whether or not there's another rider, your fare gets cut in half. The mobile app will also tell you who's being picked up first and the name of your buddy, so you'll have a decent excuse to start a conversation.

At the moment, UberPool is in private testing as it tweaks the service and gets up to speed. Google, a fan of shared transportation, will be part of the dry runs. A wider beta is launching on August 15th, and Uber is taking sign-ups if you want a heads-up about a possible launch in your city. That may take some time -- Uber is quick to acknowledge that this is a "bold social experiment" that may make people uncomfortable, and it's willing to iron out any kinks. However, the pooling might pay off for both you and Uber if everything works out. The company could make better use of its drivers, and your costs might drop sharply enough that you can afford to travel more often.