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Uber is turning San Francisco cabs into buses

Uber is testing new bus-style "Smart Routes" in San Francisco, TechCrunch reports, offering discounts on rides if passengers are willing to be picked up and dropped off along popular roads. The feature is open to people using UberPool, the company's ridesharing service, with the Smart Routes appearing on the Uber app's map as green lines. Riders willing to walk to meet an UberPool car traveling along the fixed routes will be rewarded with $1 or more off the cost of the journey.

Riders will get a discount along Smart Routes

The company says the new Smart Routes are part of its "ongoing efforts to increase the efficiency of driver-partners' time spent on the road while helping riders save time and money." In practice, drivers operating along these routes will function like a miniature version of a bus, as UberPool — introduced last year — already splits the cost of rides by sharing them with strangers. The discounts might mean it's actually cheaper to take an UberPool in San Francisco than it is to use public transport.

The new feature is one of a number of new passenger collection options Uber is currently considering. Last year, CEO Travis Kalanick discussed the concept of a "perpetual trip" for Uber drivers, allowing them to pick up and drop off people along the way whenever they have a spare seat. Uber's iOS app has also started pointing to suggested pick-up points for some users, an option that the company says will save users time and get them a ride faster. Uber's competitors are also testing similar features: Lyft's "Triple Match" lets drivers collect three passengers before taking them to their destination.