Is Pooling The New Tinder? Our Reporter Finds Out

Is UberPooling The New Tinder? Our Reporter Takes A Ride To Find Out


by Contributor |
Published on

The taxi-network firm Uber has launched a
 new car-pooling system, letting strangers share group rides. And it’s fast being hailed as the latest dating fad. Writer Laura Jane Williams, 29, reports from the back seat…

‘Come here,’ my friend Fern demands drunkenly. ‘Let me rub your head.’ She leans across to the 20-something lawyer, who makes appreciative noises as Fern aggressively massages his scalp. He slurs, ‘This is one of the top five things 
to ever happen to me,’ and our driver, Muhammad, catches my eye in the mirror. ‘Don’t print my name when you write about this,’ the lawyer whispers, closing his eyes. ‘I’m well hammered and my boss would...’ That’s the moment our new best friend falls asleep in Fern’s lap.

Fern and I are UberPooling. Friday
 night turns into Saturday morning as we cruise around London between bars testing out the new group cab-sharing service. UberPool allows passengers heading in the same direction to save on the standard fare by bunking up with one another. It might take slightly longer to get where you’re going, but it’s cheaper, and there are some other surprising, er, fringe benefits: like the potential to fall in love.

Only weeks after launching, the service has already been heralded as ‘Tinder for passengers’ with strangers connecting in the back seat.

This new dating (Uber) pool could explain the service’s burgeoning popularity. Almost two-thirds of Uber’s drivers undertook shared journeys during its first weeks of launching. Ibrahim, our next driver, even calls himself the ‘Uber Cupid’. He tells us, ‘Men and women – they can meet in my taxi and who knows what might happen? Two nights ago, I had
 two drop-offs that, in the space of the 20-minute drive, became just one...’

I’m here to see if the back seat of a Prius really is the likely place for a liaison. And
I can report that there’s something very intimate about sharing the back of a dark car with a stranger. I can’t deny I like the idea of a beautiful man appearing in our clean car – and it’s a far cry from having
a group of ‘ladz’ singing rugby chants at me on the Tube.

When Emmanuel,
 a suited businessman from Luxembourg, hops in our ride, I perk up. I’m wondering if Ibrahim’s predictions are right as Emmanuel flashes a smile and confides, ‘It’s so hard to meet people. UberPool means you’re trapped in a small space, when your defences are down [thanks, alcohol]. Who knows who you could meet?’ Indeed,
 I think excitedly, just before he explains that he’s en route to his girlfriend’s house...

In our next car we meet Nikoleta, a food importer, whose intentions for a group taxi are a little purer than mine. ‘It’s Friday!’ she shouts happily. ‘I love meeting new people and I just thought – go with what’s cheapest!’ I ask her if she worries about her safety. ‘You wonder if a guy could spot where you live, but it’s like anything, you have to be sensible. If I get in the car with David the stranger, and David is a creep,

I can just as quickly get out of the car.’ She adds, ‘Plus, you might meet amazing people. Maybe we’ll become friends!’

But while the possibilities are exciting, Uber are careful to highlight their ‘safety first’ message. Ahead of the launch, the company set up a safety checklist that pops up when you open the app. It allows you to track your car’s arrival, confirm the driver’s ID, then, possibly most effectively, ‘share your ETA’ with a friend – allowing them to track your progress on a live map.

Drivers do have concerns, though, and their union has written to Uber to request that drivers be allowed to opt
out of the pool service if they’d prefer to. But the company points out ‘problematic incidents’ have actually reduced in cities where UberPool has been introduced.

It’s hard to focus on potential issues with the new service when Drake comes on the radio and we all break into an impromptu karaoke session. We don’t want to get out, but when we do, we meet an Aussie called Tristan who wants to tell us all about his family back home.

But it’s not all fun. At 1am, a couple get in and make it clear they don’t want to chat. They’ve had a row and it’s tense. We ride in awkward silence, sobering up, and it’s a relief when we reach our destination. We’re debating calling it a night when 
a sporty ad director climbs in. It could have been my chance to flirt, but I’m still learning how to talk to men when our knees are knocking together, so instead
I barely say a word and kick myself
 when he gets out.

Recently a US ‘Missed Connections’ Craigslist went viral after
 a similar missed chance in the back of a taxi. But some people are getting it right and Uber confirms that in San Francisco recently, one UberPool encounter resulted in an engagement.

The more that Fern and I talk to strangers, the faster this city shrinks.
 I didn’t swap any numbers, but I did meet a bunch of attractive Poolers. Whether it’s set to take over from Tinder is debatable – it takes a particular kind of person to share with a stranger. But it so happens those adventurous, curious ones are just my type.

As our final taxi turns up to take us home, I put on more lipstick, because who knows what might happen? Either way, it’s definitely better than a night bus – especially if sleepy lawyers are your bag.


Kristiana Wrixon, from charity the Suzy LamplughTrust, advises, ‘All ride-sharing apps involve safety concerns. A stranger could potentially learn things about you – where you live, whether you live alone. If you use them, try to buddy up with a friend and tell them when you’re leaving, where you’re going, what time you’ll arrive and ask them to check in with you at the other end.’

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