Lyft announces its own carpool line, one day after Uber

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 21: A Lyft customer gets into a car on January 21, 2014 in San Francisco, California. As ridesharing services like Lyft, Uber and Sidecar become more popular, the San Francisco Cab Driver Association is reporting that nearly one third of San Francisco's licensed taxi drivers have stopped driving taxis and have started to drive for the ridesharing services. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

For those of you wondering why Uber broke the news of its new carpooling feature after 8 pm ET last night, we now have a potential answer. It looks like Uber may have been trying to beat its pink mustachioed rival — Lyft — to the punch.

This morning Lyft announced its own version of carpooling: Lyft Line. Passengers going the same direction can request “Line” within the app, the same way they might request a regular Lyft or a Lyft Plus. The app will match people who are requesting pick up in the same neighborhood, and the Lyft driver will swing around to get everyone.

The interface of the Lyft app, with the added carpool option under the "Line" tab

The interface of the Lyft app, with the added carpool option under the “Line” tab

Just like with Uber’s proposed “UberPool,” this is likely to be a slower car ordering option than regular Lyft, but it will slash the costs. The app will automatically deduct a discount that’s 10-60 percent less than the ride would normally be otherwise, so passengers don’t need to haggle among themselves to figure out a fair split.

“Even if a match isn’t made, passengers will still get a ride as requested, and will pay the fixed discounted price shown when they first requested the ride,” said a Lyft spokeswoman. “This will feel like an original Lyft ride at a more affordable price.” UberPool will also offer customers a discount, regardless of whether they find a carpooling match.

The similarities between Lyft Line and UberPool are so striking that it’s likely information was leaked between the two competitors. Uber may have been the first to make its new feature announcement, but Lyft is more prepared to actually roll it out. The company had a polished commercial to accompany the blog post and is launching the feature to all iOS users in San Francisco starting today, whereas Uber is testing UberPool with a beta group before slowly rolling it out to more people starting August 15th.

Either way, as with all of the price wars and product competition happening in ridesharing, the consumer ultimately benefits. Lyft Line and UberPool cut ridesharing costs even more, which will in turn widen the audience of people who can afford to use them.

As I mentioned yesterday, it was strange to see Uber roll out a carpooling option before Lyft, given that the initial premise of Lyft’s company was carpooling. Back in the day, co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green launched a company called Zimride that matched people traveling long distances for rides, with the added benefit of energy conservation and community building. Zimride pivoted into Lyft — a not-particularly-energy-efficient alternative — when the Lyft side experiment took off with users.

It appears the company never forgot its original mission.

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