Uber Begins Testing Out Its Carpooling Service In New York This Week

After launching its carpooling service in both Paris and San Francisco earlier this year, Uber is adding New York to that list. As reported on The Verge, the company said it plans to offer UberPool in New York, a city with a lot of people and a lot of cars, but often not people with cars of their own. UberPool, which launches there on Thursday, offers a way to share a ride with someone else who ordered an UberX ride along the same route. That promises to trim costs anywhere from 20 to 50 percent, Uber says, as well as cut downtime for drivers who are waiting to pick people up.

“On any given day, the vast majority of UberX trips in NYC have a ‘lookalike’ trip — a trip that starts near, ends near, and is happening around the same time as another trip,” Uber said in a blog post. “Most of these trips transport 1-2 people, leaving 2-3 empty seats. With UberPool we can match those lookalike trips together.”

Uber began experimenting with the UberPool idea in San Francisco Bay Area in August, promising up to a 40 percent reduction in fares. It expanded that idea to Paris last month, with a discount in the event that a matching co-rider could not be found.

THE IDEA HAS ATTRACTED THE ATTENTION OF REGULATORS

Uber is not alone in matching up strangers who are open to carpooling, though the feature has attracted the attention of regulators that question its legality. Competitor Lyft (which Uber is in a fierce battle with), as well as Sidecar, launched nearly identical services respectively called Lyft Line and Sidecar Shared Rides in early August, with the same promise of cutting rider costs in half. That immediately brought the ire of the California Public Utilities Commission, which called those services illegal and threatened to shut them down.

The UberPool service launches in all five boroughs on Thursday, but is limited to iOS users. Uber says Android users will get the option on Monday, December 8th.

New App Reserve Is The Uber For Restaurant Reservations

A startup called Reserve is launching a beta version of its “digital concierge” app today, promising to help users snag reservations at top-tier restaurants and improve the dining experience overall.

As reported on Tech Crunch, this is the first launch out of Expa, the “startup studio” created by StumbleUpon and Uber co-founder Garrett Camp. (Expa recently raised $50 million andannounced the addition of Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai as its New York partner.) According to Camp, Reserve’s appeal is pretty straightforward: “I will be able to eat at better restaurants with better service than I have in the past.”

With other online reservation tools, most notably OpenTable, users have to find the restaurant they’re looking for and then see if the time they want is available. The Reserve experience is a bit different.

After all, if you’re going on a big date, or if you want to take a friend or family member somewhere fancy, you might have a specific restaurant in mind, but there’s also a good chance that you just want to get a reservation at a decent spot in a certain neighborhood and period of time. And that’s how Reserve works — users just identify the date and time window that they’re looking for, and the app will provide them with a list of recommended restaurants. After you peruse the listings (which include online menus and information like awards won), you choose the restaurant or restaurants that interest you, and Reserve will try to get a reservation.

Co-founder and CEO Greg Hong said the app goes beyond the reservation itself. The startup has built a relationship with each of the listed restaurants, so once you get there, the staff knows they should be “treating you like a regular.” And the app already has your credit card (as well as a preset tip percentage) on file, so it handles the payment for you — you don’t need to flag down a waiter at the end of the meal.

Reserve 2 - Choose a restaurant

Hong previously worked as director of business operations at online ad company SocialVibe, which rebranded as true[X] last year, and he co-founded Reserve with true[X] CEO Joe Marchese, who will serve as the startup’s executive chairman. Marchese said that the idea first came to them while they were eating lunch together in Los Angeles and thinking, “There’s gotta be a better way to do this.”

Hong compared Reserve to Uber, saying that Uber made “personal transportation very accessible to a larger market,” and he aims to do the same for this kind of concierge service. (Hong talked so convincingly about what Reserve’s concierge can do that at a certain point I had to confirm these reservations were being made automatically, rather than having a Reserve employee pick up the phone.)

He also noted that Reserve is doing something unusual behind the scenes, because it isn’t charging restaurants a fee. Hong argued that those fees can “really cut into [restaurants’] profit margins,” so instead, Reserve charges diners $5 per reservation.

Reserve isn’t saying exactly how much money it’s raised, but a spokesperson told me that it’s “pre-Series A” with about 30 employees. Investors include Expa, Rob Hayes (First Round Capital), Chris Sacca (Lowercase Capital), Shervin Pishevar (Sherpa Ventures), Jason Calacanis, Shari Redstone (Advancit Capital), Hunter Walk and Satya Patel (Homebrew Capital), Adam Rothberg (Box Group), and Google Ventures

The service is currently available in New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, with plans to launch in more markets soon. To help with the Boston launch, the company acquired the team behind reservation service SpoonSpoon.

Update: You can download the iOS app here. And here’s a demo video.