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Uber is using drones to fly UberPool ads in front of gridlocked drivers

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Prathan Chorruangsak / Shutterstock
With China now out of the picture, Uber is focusing on expanding its business in other potentially lucrative markets, among them: Latin America.

In a bizarre marketing gimmick that may prompt frustrated drivers to reach for an easy-to-deploy projectile, Uber has started flying ad-carrying drones to within a few feet of cars stuck in traffic in Mexico City.

Buzzing in front of windshields, the dangling poster asks in Spanish, “Driving by yourself?”

It then berates any single-occupant car owners with the message, “This is why you can never see the volcanoes.”

It’s a reminder to the city’s residents that beyond its infamous thick smog are two possibly picturesque peaks, which might actually be viewable if there weren’t so many cars on the road pumping out fumes the whole time.

But more than that, it’s an ad for UberPool, Uber’s carpooling product that encourages riders to share vehicles to the same, or similar, destinations.

The airborne ad campaign is mentioned briefly in an expansive piece published recently by Bloomberg that examines the company’s growing ambitions in Latin America.

The San Francisco-based company currently operates in 65 cities throughout the region, though has plans to double its presence by the start of 2018. It’s already making serious inroads there, as Brazil is currently Uber’s third-biggest market after the U.S. and India. Mexico City, meanwhile, is its busiest city on the entire planet.

With local competitors equally keen to dominate the market, and Uber recently pulling out of China after a bruising multi-billion-dollar battle with local rival Didi Chuxing, the ride-sharing giant is doubling down on efforts to expand its service – which also includes its UberEats food delivery service – throughout Latin America in the coming months. Of course, as in so many other places, it’s having to deal with regulatory hurdles, occasional bans, and also protests from the taxi industry, though these obstacles seem unlikely to harm its efforts over the long term.

As for its offbeat ad-carrying drones, we’re betting that that particular initiative will be be a little more short-lived.

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