If you're willing to share an Uber with a stranger, travelling across London could soon be a little bit cheaper. The company is launching UberPool this Friday (December 4th) at 4pm, starting with a small patch in the centre of the city -- it stretches between Highbury in the North, Wapping in the East, Brixton in the South and Shepherd's Bush in the West. Sharing a ride will, the company claims, make your fare 25 percent cheaper than if you had travelled with UberX, the company's next best option. You simply open the app, choose the UberPool icon and your destination; it'll then ask how many seats you need (for now, two is the limit) and give a final fare. If you're the driver's second stop, Uber will tell you the name of your fellow traveller immediately, otherwise you'll get a notification mid-journey.
The future of UberPool is uncertain though. Transport for London (TfL) is currently consulting on new measures for private hire vehicles, which would have a huge impact on how Uber operates in the city. Among the proposals are new restrictions on ride-sharing: "We intend to explore measures to ensure that private hire vehicles cannot be used for ride-sharing purposes in London unless there are very clear controls in place to protect the safety of passengers and drivers." Uber is, unsurprisingly, now encouraging the public to voice their opposition before the consultation deadline closes on December 23rd.
Uber's ongoing legislative battle could explain the timing of its UberPool launch. If the service is available and working as advertised, people will be more likely to try it and defend it, making it harder for lawmakers to introduce restrictive measures. Nobody knows how TfL's consultation will play out, but in the meantime Londoners have another travel option in the city. Of course, ride-sharing isn't for everyone, but if you're sick of crowded buses and Tube carriages, maybe you'll prefer sharing the backseat of a quiet Prius.