The Math Of Uber Pool And Is It Worth It For The Driver?
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the idea of Uber’s pool service for a while now, and I just couldn’t find the time to do the math properly and see the end results. There is a lot of negativity about Pool, and I will try to either debunk the myth that Uber pool is bad or to see if you are indeed making less money with Uber Pool as my initial suspicion.
What is Uber Pool?
Uber Pool is a service offered by Uber London where riders get to share a ride if they’re heading in the same general direction. It has the same rates of Uber X, but if two or more riders are matched, they can save 25 percent on their rides. That sounds great on paper, but then if two or more riders are matched along the trip, the driver’s cut increases to 35%. When you take into account, the lower fare prices and the bigger cut Uber makes you can see how it can be a cause of concern for many drivers. It is ideal for Uber – they pay less to the driver, and they make more money per mile when riders are matched. No surprise they are forcing drivers to accept Pool requests.
In the beginning, drivers were in control – you could ignore Pool requests altogether. Many riders requested Pool by accident, not knowing what it was. I had a rider who was in a major rush and accidentally pressed Pool. When we talked about it, he asked me to ignore other Pool requests and head straight to the airport as it was an emergency. Uber realized that a lot of drivers were ignoring the other Pool and started to force it on its “partners.”
While you were in charge initially of Pool rides and it was up to you to accept a matched pool request, Uber decided to force the matching process. You didn’t have an option anymore whether to accept or reject that matched trip anymore – it added automatically. When confronted about it, Uber said that it was due to safety concerns and convenience. Rather than having to push a button and accept a trip, it was conveniently received and queued for you. Wonderful, isn’t it?
While you were able to ignore Pool requests in the beginning or cancel them at random rate, Uber decided it will punish drivers who ignore more than two consecutive requests. They said it was a random feature to prevent riders from having a bad experience using Uber, but we all know why it is enforced – Pool. When you ignore two consecutive Pool requests Uber will force you into 10 minutes long, “well deserved” break. They will switch you off for ten minutes. If you try to go back online in these 10 minutes, you’ll receive a message like “oh, sorry, seems like you’re ignoring trip requests and you might need a break.” Awesome!
When drivers started preferring to take 10 minutes breaks over accepting a pool request or canceling altogether, Uber went even further. Every new app update would bring new rules about Pool – acceptance rate is in question, drivers are being deactivated for having too many cancellations, or their trip acceptance rate was too low.
To take things even further, Uber decided that drivers don’t need to see the info on the ping screen about what sort of trip they’re accepting. It is simply not shown anymore. When a rider requests you around London you have no idea what type of rider it is – UberX or Pool are all the same. You receive the info only after accepting the trip and then comes in play cancellation policies and whatnot. They are trying very hard to force Pool down driver’s throats and leave them with no options but to accept the dreaded trip and pray not to get a matched request so they can make some money from the 10% commission.
Is Uber Pool worth it for the driver?
When they introduced Uber Pool in London, I said to myself – hey, what a cool feature – it can be a bit of a social experiment. You can be a witness of stranger’s awkwardness while interacting with each other during a shared a ride in London.
I had a quite a few stories when I was still accepting Uber pool – an Indian family, visiting London for the first time, got into my car as it was pouring rain outside near Picadilly. They didn’t expect to be a Pool trip – the tech was still new, and a lot of people pressed Pool by accident, resulting in comic situations. The family didn’t expect the Chinese couple is sitting in the back seat as they entered the car. The Indian guy got quite mad, and he used the word “F” many times over until they realized they’re getting a shared ride. Both of them were tourists, and their English wasn’t perfect. The tension and the awkward silence afterward was hilarious.
What was even better was the flamboyant gay guy discussing his love adventures in a pretty graphic manner on the phone, while a teenage couple was riding in the back seat. Hilarious! But I’m not here to talk about my experiences as an Uber driver – there are plenty.
I’m here to discuss Uber pool and why it is bad for the drivers. I used to accept every ride request in my first couple of months until I started to notice that Pool is making me significantly less money than X. Let’s dig into the math of Uber Pool.
Uber X versus Uber Pool Price And Earnings
I’ll look into two scenarios – one will be a simple Uber X trip from The Gherkin to Westfield. For the sake of this article, we’ll use Google Maps to estimate distance and travel time. A lot of drivers use Maps as their primary navigation, so I guess this will be as accurate as it gets. I’m not going to factor in traffic delays and rush hour traffic. All the estimates will be from around noon until about 2 pm with regular traffic and no special events in the city. If at any point you guys think this in inaccurate just let me know and we can do the math together.
Scenario One – Uber X Trip
Let’s take a relatively simple Uber X trip from The Gherkin to Westfield. According to Google, the quickest trip would be via Euston Rd and A40, and it would take 48 minutes. The distance is 7.8 miles. Let’s do the math:
- Base fare for UberX – £2.50
- Mileage – 7.8 miles x £1.25 – £9.75
- Time – 48 minutes x £0.15 – £7.20
- Total Fare – £19.45
- Uber’s Cut 25% – £4.86
- Total Driver Earnings – £14.59
Please keep in mind that this is for testing purposes only. A similar trip might be more or less depending on traffic, surge and all that stuff. I am not going to cover it in this article; this is just a sample fare from a trip off Google Maps data. If there is anything inaccurate, please do let me know, I do a lot of typos, so if there is anything inaccurate, please get in touch.
Scenario Two – 3 Matched Uber Pool Trips
Let’s do the math with three matched riders heading in the same direction. For the sake of this article, the start and the end point will be the same as in Scenario One, so we can get a better idea how they compare. Rider One will be heading from the Gherkin to Goodge Street Tube Station. Along the trip, he will be matched with another Pool Rider, Rider Two, going from The British Museum to Paddington station. Once the first passenger is dropped off, there will be another Pool request from Driver Three going to Westfield from Selfridges on Oxford Street.
Uber charges fixed fare for Uber pool trips based on historical data about similar journeys. It guarantees the set fare to the riders. If they are matched together, they save 25% off. Let’s see how is that working out. I’ll break down each trip using the same method used for Scenario One.
- Rider 1 – Gherkin to The Goodge Street Tube Station.
- Rider 2 – The British Museum to Paddington
- Rider 3 – Selfridges to Westfield.
Rider One Fare:
From The Gherkin to Goodge St Station. At the moment Google says that the trip will take 28 minutes and the distance is 2.9 miles. Let’s see how much will the driver make off this trip. Uber Pool fares are the same as Uber X, but if you are matched with another driver, you can save a quarter of the fare. Here it is in detail:
- Base Fare – £2.50
- Mileage – £3.63
- Time – £4.20
- Total fare before matched – £10.33
- Full fare after Pool’s 25% – £7.75
You have to remember that Uber’s cut rises when two or more Pool riders are matched together. It would go to 35% instead of the usual 25% or 20% if you started before November 2015. Let’s dig deeper into that:
- Total fare after Pool – £7.75
- Uber’s cut – 35% – £2.71
- Driver’s earnings – £5.04
Rider 2 Fare
The British Museum to Paddington. According to Google, the trip will take 27 minutes, and it is 2.9 miles in current traffic. There might be variations, but let’s for the sake of this article assume the best. I chose the quickest route according to Maps and let’s suppose that’s the rider’s preference. This rider has been matched with Rider One along the trip, so his fare will have the same 25% discount as the first rider. Let’s break it down:
- Base Fare – £2.50
- Mileage – £3.63
- Time – £4.05
- Total fare before matched – £10.18
- Full fare after Pool’s 25% – £7.64
Let’s see what the driver is getting out of this ride after Uber’s ridiculous 35% commission:
- Total fare after Pool – £7.64
- Uber’s cut – 35% – £2.67
- Driver’s earnings – £4.97
It is the total earning for the driver after he dropped off Rider Two. Rider Three is matched along the way, so we have to take this into consideration. There will be some added time to the trip because Selfridges is not really along the way for Paddington from The British Museum unless you decide to take the special trip along Oxford street in rush traffic. Nobody does that, so there will be some time added for the third pickup, but I will go more into that later. Let’s see Rider Three’s fare:
Rider 3 Fare
Selfridges to Westfield. Maps say it will take 14 minutes to travel the 4.1 miles to Westfield. That’s most likely the trip if there was no Pool matched. Rider 3 will still be charged that rate, but I will go in detail what the total trip would be an how much time it took a right after we break down the fare for Rider 3:
- Base Fare – £2.50
- Mileage – £5.15
- Time – £2.10
- Total fare before matched – £9.75
- Full fare after Pool’s 25% – £7.31
Now comes in play Uber’s commission so let’s see what the driver’s earnings would be:
- Total fare after Pool – £7.31
- Uber’s cut – 35% – £2.56
- Driver’s wages – £4.75
After dropping Rider Three, your total earnings off this rider will be £4.75 for the trip.
Uber Pool Math
Uber is trying hard to convince its drivers, or so-called “partners,” that Pool is the future, it is green, and it is good for everyone. Yes, I agree it is excellent for the riders – they get to socialize when not intoxicated, they save a quarter of the fare while trading in some time off route. It is a good experience for them. It is good for Uber as well. It is much better for them. Let’s see how much better it is for them:
Uber’s cut from Scenario One:
25% of one Uber X ride:
Uber’s cut from Scenario Two:
35% of three trips as follows:
- Rider One – £2.71
- Rider Two – £2.67
- Rider Three – £2.56
You can see that the difference is staggering and no wonder Uber does everything in its power to push for Uber Pool. For a somewhat similar trip, Uber makes significantly more money. How significantly? Well, 63% more. That is not bad at all for them – kudos to them for figuring out a way to make more money off the same product. But here comes the question – who pays for it all. Let’s see what the driver makes:
Driver’s earnings from Uber Pool
We already calculated that Uber gets a much better commission when riders are using Uber Pool. They make 63% more money, but let’s see how the driver’s earnings compared to Uber income in both situations:
The driver from Scenario One made a very simple trip – The Gherkin to Paddington. According to Google Maps, that trip took 48 minutes for 7.8 miles in London traffic. Yes, we can argue a more efficient route, but in reality, most Uber drivers will take what the GPS is showing and according to Maps, the most used satnav, that is the quickest way.
Total Uber X driver earnings after Uber’s cut – £14.59
Let’s say that the driver spent 55 minutes altogether from the start till finish. That includes the waiting time for the rider to enter the car so the trip can start and some extra time to help with luggage and whatnot at the drop off point. Let’s assume the driver’s car burns 1 liter of fuel for every 7.8 miles. Lots of cars do. The cost of fuel would be around £1.15 in current prices. It is only for illustrative reasons, of course. It is a pretty straightforward trip. If I made any mistakes in the math, please let me know!!!
The driver drove 7.8 miles for 55 minutes and made £13.44 in Scenario One.
It has to be a more complicated than Scenario One for sure. First of all, we have to calculate all the time that it took for the driver to collect and drop off all three riders. We have, to sum up, all the mileage is driven from point A to B to C and so on. We’ll have to make a few assumptions here and there about wait times and given the route, but I hope you can forgive me if I made a mistake. Let’s assume that most rides were matched in perfect times for the sake of keeping my sanity while doing the math. I should be pretty good at it since it was my major in high school and then I studied plenty of it in Uni, trying to get an engineering diploma. Keep in mind that people make mistakes so if you find one, again, please let me know ASAP. I’ll add 2 minutes wait time to all trips to even things up a bit – at drop off and pick up. I’ll have to add times for detours as well, but for the sake of this article I’ll just get straight trips from all the pickup and drop off points. We can eventually add a mile in total to compensate for any detours. If you guys think a mile is too much, I’m sure we can agree on another number, but I hope you get my point. Most of the time Pool requests come at random, so there is always some mileage added to the route. For my convenience, I have no more than two riders in the car at any point, but the math is the same, it will just save me some time calculating stops and trips. So let’s get cracking:
Trip A – Rider One Pickup to Rider Two Pickup.
The Gherkin to The British Museum – 17 minutes for 2.4 miles. Adding 2 minutes waiting for Rider One and 2 minutes waiting for Rider Two. That should compensate for merging in traffic as well.
Total: 2.4 miles and 21 minutes
Trip B – Rider Two Pickup To Rider One drop off
The British Museum to Goodge Street – 11 minutes for 0.8 miles. Adding 2 minutes for the drop off only as we already added 2 minutes for pick up before.
Total: 0.8 miles and 13 minutes.
Trip C – Rider One drop off to Rider Three pickup
Goodge Street station to Selfridges – 13 minutes for 1.4 miles. I’ll add 2 minutes here as well for pickup of Rider Three. We’ve already added the 2 minutes for the drop off in trip B.
Total: 1.4 miles and 15 minutes.
You have to keep in mind that the request came in before we got on our way to Paddington. It could easily be a mile or more on top of the 1.4 miles that took us from Goodge to Selfridges. For the sake of this article, again, I am assuming ideal conditions and ideal ping times. Real world results can and do vary wildly, but for this situation only, we are keeping it perfect.
Trip D – Rider Three pickup to Rider Two drop off
Selfridges to Paddington – 1.4 miles for 15 minutes. Adding 2 minutes for the drop again.
Total: 1.4 miles for 17 minutes.
Trip E – Rider Two drop off to Rider Three drop off
Paddington to Westfield – 3 miles for 15 min. Adding 2 minutes for the drop off again in case the rider had some luggage for Westfield or in case there was a line for the parking.
Total – 3 miles for 17 minutes.
Let’s see what the total mileage for this trip is. We drove for 9 miles to pick up and drop off three passengers. In this case, again, ideal conditions were met – pick up and drop off points were very close to each other, there were almost no detours for pickups or drop offs. All the drives pretty much followed an ideal curve during the trips so we can save some time and eventually petrol.
The time from the first pickup to the last drop off is 83 minutes. That’s 1 hour and 23 minutes total driving. It includes 2 minutes extra for each pickup and drops off. We all know sometimes it is less than that, but lots of times it is much more. Again, for the sake of this article and me keeping my sanity while doing the math, we are assuming close to ideal conditions.
In total, the driver drove for 9 miles, and it took him 1 hour and 23 minutes do pick up and drop off all the passengers. Let see how much he made off these three trips:
- Pool Trip One – £5.04
- Pool Trip Two – £4.97
- Pool Trip Three – £4.75
Total – £14.76
Let’s assume the driver’s car burns 1 liter of fuel for every 8 miles. In this case, it consumed 1.125 liters costing £1.30 in petrol. Again, talking about the ideal situation. So:
The driver traveled 9 miles for 1 hour and 25 minutes and made £13.46 in Scenario Two.
I’ll leave all conclusions to the readers. I think the math is pretty clear. The driver in Scenario One made 2 pence less but drove 1.2 miles less and was in transit 30 minutes less than the driver in Scenario Two. I asked the question before who will foot the bill for the cheaper Uber Pool rides, and the answer is obvious – the drivers. With an already saturated market like London, where there are way more drivers than rider’s requests, Uber is forcing its partners to drive for even less money than before. If the driver in Scenario One made £13.44 in an hour, the driver in Scenario Two made less than £10 per hour making Pool trips. Uber Pool results in more expense as well – trips further away for collection and drop offs. In this particular
I asked the question before who will foot the bill for the cheaper Uber Pool rides, and the answer is obvious – the drivers, the so-called “partners.” With an already saturated market like London, where there are way more Uber drivers than rider’s requests, Uber is forcing its partners to drive for even less money than before. If the driver in Scenario One made £13.44 in an hour, the driver in Scenario Two made less than £10 per hour making Pool trips. Uber Pool results in more expense as well – trips further away for collection and drop offs. In this particular case, the pickups and the drop offs were almost ideal and along the route, but what happens when it matches you with a rider who is 2 or more miles away? You have to drive to them, and you will have to pay out of your pocket for petrol. I don’t like Pool personally, and I refuse to accept any pool requests. Yes, I had some issues with Uber about it, the placed me on several timeouts, but I am not going to work for peanuts. It just doesn’t make sense financially.