Travis Kalanick Says Services Like UberPool Will Need Massive Scale To Work

In the ride-hailing world, companies are looking for ways to stuff more passengers into each car, by connecting users who are going along the same route. But today at Disrupt SF 2014, Kalanick said that it will take massive scale for those services to work.

Earlier this year Uber raised $1.2 billion dollars in a funding round that valued the company at more than $18 billion. With that money, the company has been involved in an aggressive price war with ride-hailing competitor Lyft, as both companies have been trying to get new customers signed up.

Uber is also competing with Lyft on features. Its new UberPool offering, which allows passengers to share a ride when going in the same general direction, will go up against Lyft Line, a similar service that also launched in San Francisco in recent weeks. In both cases, sharing a ride with another passenger provides a discount on fares.

“The idea is that you push a button, a car comes and picks you up and while you’re on the way to your destination, someone else is going in the same direction,” Kalanick said. “The difference is that with a bus you go to a corner that’s half a mile away from you.”

Kalanick admitted that Lyft didn’t copycat the UberPool idea, but said it will be difficult for anyone to make this type of ride-sharing work well. “At the end of the day, liquidity is going to matter on this,” Kalanick said.

“If we were just starting out you just can’t do it,” he said. “There has to be a large number of people and routes that are lined up together. One part is liquidity and the other part is product — there’s a lot that can go wrong.”

For Uber, the new service is just one in a long line of experiments that the company has attempted in recent months. In New York, the company is experimenting with a courier service called UberRUSH, while in Los Angeles it’s testing out a food delivery program called UberFRESH. That’s in addition to the multiple lines of ride services it operates, including UberX, UberBLACK, and UberSUV.

While Uber may seek to diversify its product line in the future, for now the company is focused on its core ride-hailing business.

[gallery ids="1054377,1054378,1054381,1054390,1054397,1054400"]