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Uber Express Pool is coming to town, move over buses

Express Pool, Uber’s new low-cost carpool service, has passengers walk to meet their drivers in order to make the route most efficient.


Uber says its wants to be a ride-hailing service that works for everybody. And, as of Wednesday, it’s officially adding a new service to its roster that’ll cater to people who don’t want to spend a lot of money: a low-cost carpool service called Express Pool. Typically, when you take an Uber, the driver comes to you.

With Express Pool, which is launching in six new cities, you walk to meet the driver at a more convenient location. In places like San Francisco and Washington DC, where one-way streets can often send cars off course, Uber says a walk down the block could save riders and drivers time and hassle. While this may sound a lot like a bus, there are differences.

Only three people can ride, for now. You’ll actually be in a car, driven by an Uber driver. And routes for Express Pool aren’t completely set, they’re dependent on what riders are requesting in specific areas.

“When you request, we say hang tight… while we figure out who your co-riders are,” said Ethan Stock, director of shared rides at Uber.

Then, “we’re asking you to walk about a block and a half from your house to a street corner.” Uber initially launched as a high-end black car service in San Francisco in 2009, but over the years it’s adapted to the on-demand world. The company now has an array of services, including UberSUV for big groups and the popular UberX, which pairs riders with drivers using their own cars.

Uber is now in 75 countries and has given more than 5 billion rides. The company hopes Express Pool will help it gain even more customers. The idea is to win over new customers with a cheaper fare and keep existing customers with a more efficient system.

“The mission is to make it possible for everyone to experience the magic of Uber everyday,” Stock said. “And make it affordable to new riders.” Uber already has a low-cost service called Pool, which it launched in August 2014. Pool is now in 36 cities worldwide and has given 1 billion rides.

It’s basically a carpool service that lets strangers catch a ride together along a similar route. Express Pool is pretty much the same, Uber says, but is more efficient because riders walk to a common route, rather than having a driver circle around. Lyft also has a similar service called Shuttle, which it rolled out in San Francisco and Chicago last year.

It differs a little bit in that, like a bus, drivers go along a fixed route every day during commute hours with the same pick-up and drop-off locations. Rides cost between £3 and £4, which can be up to 75 percent cheaper than a regular Lyft. Uber says Express Pool will be a lot cheaper too.

The company says Express Pool will be up to 50 percent cheaper than Pool and up to 75 percent cheaper than UberX. I did a test ride and found that a trip that would cost about £10 with UberX would cost about £6 with regular Pool, and about £4 with Express Pool. As far as timing, the 1.5-mile trip through downtown San Francisco would take about 17 minutes with UberX, 26 minutes with Pool and between 26 minutes and 36 minutes with Express Pool.

A bus would’ve cost £2.25, involved some walking, and took about 20 minutes. Or, I could’ve walked the whole way for free in about 30 minutes. Part of the reason why Express Pool takes a little longer is because after a rider hails a car, there’s a two- to three- minute wait period while the app locates other nearby riders going in the same direction.

Uber says this wait time ensures the app figures out the most efficient route. “We add a small amount of time, one to two minutes at the beginning of the ride,” Stock said. That’s to make it “far more compatible with you.”

The company isn’t getting rid of Pool for now, so if people are unable to walk or don’t want to walk, they can still hail something more affordable than UberX. Uber started piloting Express Pool in San Francisco in November and then quietly launched it there and in Boston in December. It’ll roll the service out to Washington DC, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego and Denver this week, and more cities in coming weeks.

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Life, disrupted: In Europe, millions of refugees are still searching for a safe place to settle.

Tech should be part of the solution.

But is it?

Dodge Demon hits 203 mph in about a minute

The Dodge Demon is the gift that keeps on giving — and we’re not just talking about web traffic. It’ll give you one hell of a quarter-mile run, it’ll give you a permanent smile and, apparently, it’ll also give you membership to the 200-mph club. Johnny Bohmer, a genuine speed freak and a big fan of standing-mile top speed runs, recently took an ever-so-slightly modified Dodge Demon up to 203 mph.

It only took the drag-racing beast about a minute to hit that speed, which is simultaneously awesome and terrifying. Aweso-fying? Terri-some?

Ordinarily, the Demon is limited to 168 mph because the Nitto tires that come with the car are only rated up to that speed. But if you install the Dodge-supplied Demon Crate Powertrain Module, which doesn’t have a speed limiter, and slap on a set of tires with a higher speed rating, the sky’s the limit. It’s not advised to exceed a tire’s speed ratings, because handling can get wonky and there’s no guarantee that the tires won’t just give up under the increased physical forces.

(Hat tip to Jalopnik!)

Where is Starman? New website lets you track Elon Musk’s Tesla in space

If you developed a soft spot for Starman following his spectacular launch aboard SpaceX’s powerful Falcon Heavy rocket a week ago, then Valentine’s Day must have been a bittersweet moment. On February 14, the Starman and his Tesla Roadster finally faded from the view of many telescopes as they drifted ever deeper into space. The Virtual Telescope Project bid farewell to Starman with a live-stream broadcast as he floated off into the cosmos.

The car was just over a million miles away from Earth and appeared only as a faint dot among a sea of stars. The final live-stream was a chance to say goodbye as it entered what will likely be an orbit around the sun. The Project, which started in 2006, offers amateur and professional astronomers online access to real, robotic telescopes and offers a range of services for the international community.

With the help of Tenagra Observatories in Arizona, it’s been tracking the Tesla Roadster and Starman since February 6, when the Falcon Heavy successfully completed its first launch. However, an electrical engineer and SpaceX enthusiast named Ben Pearson has created a website where you can track Starman on his journey as he burns up his fuse out there alone. Where Is Roadster uses a script to compile data from JPL and plot the location of Starman in his sports car as they journey through the solar system. The website also includes continually updated statistics, such as the Roadster’s speed and fuel economy.

As of this writing, it has exceeded its 36,000-mile warranty more than 627 times. Pearson writes that his site will continue to track Starman as long as possible, probably for a few years. Although Pearson is not affiliated with SpaceX, it seems that even an eccentric multi-billionaire sometimes can’t remember where he left his ride.

I’m sure it’s parked around here somewhere …https://t.co/cq4LEhu4qD

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 18, 2018

The wacky payload was an attempt by Elon Musk to make space “fun” and get people interested and inspired by deep space projects. This is the guy that wants to build a city on Mars, don’t forget. Oh, and for anyone new to this story — and sorry to break this to anybody who’s formed a deep emotional bond with Starman in the past week — we should just state that he (or more accurately, “it”) is in fact a spacesuit-clad mannequin and not a real person … well, as far as we know.

Updated on Gebruary 18: Added information about whereisroadster.com site.

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Here to revolutionize your commute is Bird, a new escooter sharing company

The bikes of the future are looking more and more like the bikes of your past. We’re talking, of course, about the renaissance of the scooter, which seems to have hit a new stride now that it’s found electricity. Escooters seem to be popping up all over the country these days and have become so popular that a number of companies are now looking to offer escooter sharing systems.

The latest to enter the scene is Bird, a company founded by a man who knows a little something about mobility solutions. His name is Travis VanderZanden, who was previously the vice president of growth at Uber, and previous to that, the chief operating officer of Lyft. But now, he is on his own, and launching a new company that doesn’t offer car services, but rather scooter services.

Bird is based in Santa Monica, California, and over the course of the last six months, VanderZanden has launched around 1,000 of these escooters around the city. So far, he tells TechCrunch, 50,000 people have taken around 250,000 rides. Getting started on Bird ought to be pretty easy.

New riders need a driver’s license and a credit card number (which they enter into the Bird app). Once that is done, you are charged £1 to unlock the scooter and an additional 15 cents for each minute. You will be able to go as far as the scooter can take you and at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour.

Apparently, some folks have made Birds take them all the way to Los Angeles International Airport, while others have ridden from Santa Monica into downtown L.A. (about a 15.5-mile commute). For the time being, the dockless escooters are only available from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Once that timeframe is up, Bird employees collect the scooters to clear them off the streets, and then replace them in front of coffee houses and other small businesses, as requested, beginning early the next morning.

So far, Bird seems to be doing quite well. The company managed to close a £15 million Series A funding round. “People are taking notice of how quickly Bird is growing,” VanderZanden said, noting that a number of copycat companies have already popped up. “Preventing car ownership is the goal of all these companies.

I think if all of us are successful, that’s fine.”

Editors’ Recommendations

DJI institutes no-fly zones for its drones around Winter Olympic arenas

DJI drone owners looking to get a remote-controlled glimpse of their favorite Olympic skier had best stick to their local stream[1] or broadcast.

Throughout the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea this month, drones manufactured by DJI will be restricted by no-fly zones from the opening ceremonies[2] until the event ends. 

DJI’s press release[3] says that drone owners located in “Pyeongchang, Gangneung, Bongpyeong and Jeongseon in Gangwon Province” will be affected by the restriction.

“DJI’s temporary no-fly zones were deployed in order to reduce the likelihood of drone operators inadvertently entering sensitive areas,” said Adam Welsh, head of DJI’s Asia-Pacific Public Policy. DJI implemented similar no-fly zones before the Democratic and Republican National Conventions and the G7 summit in Japan.

Drones and sports don’t mix

The Olympics will be drone-free

Things have changed since the 2014 Sochi Olympics, when The Atlantic[4] called drones the “future of sports photography”. For those games, NBC used “follow-me” drones to track Olympic skiers flying down the slopes. Their drones honed in on GPS trackers on the skiers, and could follow them and film the action from only a few feet behind.

But once it became clear how dangerous drones can be in the wrong hands, the prediction that drones would replace cable-suspended cameras has stalled.

The US FAA passed regulations[5] declaring 3-mile no-fly zones around most sporting events, including MLB, NFL, NCAA and NASCAR events. A New York City teacher caused a bomb scare[6] by crashing his drone into the stands of a US Open tennis match. And Lady Gaga’s gorgeous drone light display[7] over Super Bowl LI had to be filmed a week in advance, because the FAA instituted a 34.5-mile no-fly zone around the stadium that night.

Now, due to tensions between North and South Korea, government security forces will use everything from “weaponized drone bots” with drone-catching nets to “hawk’s eye” drones with facial recognition software during the games, reports CNBC[8].      

It’s truly for the best that DJI, as well as other civilian drone manufacturers, preempt any frightening misunderstandings and needless property damage by keeping harmless drones on the ground.


  1. ^ local stream (www.techradar.com)
  2. ^ opening ceremonies (www.techradar.com)
  3. ^ DJI’s press release (www.dji.com)
  4. ^ The Atlantic (www.theatlantic.com)
  5. ^ passed regulations (www.faa.gov)
  6. ^ caused a bomb scare (www.npr.org)
  7. ^ gorgeous drone light display (www.theverge.com)
  8. ^ CNBC (www.cnbc.com)
  9. ^ best drones (www.techradar.com)

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