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Uber starts testing UberCommute, a carpooling service for drivers

Uber has certainly made no secret of its desire to crack China, investing heavily in a market with a massive population and expanding middle class.

With its interest in the Asian country intensifying, the company has chosen to pilot a new service there, marking the first time for it to head outside of the U.S. to trial a new product.

UberCommute is aimed at Uber drivers who want to split the cost of their own journeys with riders heading in the same direction.

The new service, which the ride-hailing company is calling “carpooling at the press of a button,” kicks off in Chengdu, a city some 900 miles south-west of Beijing with a population of 4.3 million. Uber says it wants to take it to other cities around the world “over time.”

To use UberCommute, a driver simply opens the Uber app and inputs their destination. The app then displays a list of riders heading in the same direction together with the amount they’ll make from the trip. They can then select a rider to start their journey. Meanwhile, for riders in Chengdu using the People’s Uber+ app – similar to UberPool in that it lets riders share a journey with strangers to cut costs – the app experience will be the same as always.

Related: Uber takes its self-driving car project to University of Arizona

San Francisco-based Uber outlined the new service in a blog post, saying, “When people can push a button and get a ride in minutes they are less likely to drive themselves – so instead of thirty people using their own cars, you have one car serving them all.”

Uber says that by using its technology to operate services like UberCommute and UberPool, it’s doing its bit to help reduce traffic congestion, though it also acknowledges that improved public transportation also has major role to play.

With that in mind, launching its new service in China – a country with cities grappling with the issue of gridlocked roads as car ownership skyrockets – won’t come as too much of a surprise. Broadening its offerings will also help it to better compete with Didi Kuaidi, which claims to control around 80 percent of the Chinese ride-hailing market.