Now that China’s leading ride-hailing company, Didi Kuaidi, has forged a partnership with Lyft, Uber is facing pressure to step up its game in the region. Though Uber has already invested about $1 billion in the Chinese market–and has seen significant growth there, with its Chinese drivers serving about 1 million rides per day–Lyft’s new alliance could hamper the company’s progress, since Didi Kuaidi already looms large over Uber in China.
On Tuesday, Uber launched a carpooling option for commuters in Chengdu, China, to pair people who might be driving long distances with others headed in the same direction. “We’ve chosen China to pilot uberCOMMUTE—the first time we’ve launched a new global product outside the United States—because of the tremendous appetite amongst Chinese drivers and riders for creative new ways to get from A to B, affordably and reliably,” Uber wrote in a blog post announcing UberCommute.
The service is targeted at people going to and from work; riders can continue using the existing UberPool option in China, People’s Uber+, to tap into the new service. Uber’s decision to introduce this first in China makes sense, given both the competition it faces and the severe congestion found on the country’s roads and public transportation. As Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in Fast Company‘s October 2015 cover story, expanding in China is a unique challenge for the company. “It’s just different than everywhere else,” he told Fast Company. “And, so, you can’t take your pattern or your model for other places and take that to China. You just can’t. You have to do it different.”
That said, Uber isn’t quite breaking new ground here: Didi Kuaidi already kicked off its own carpooling service earlier this summer, and Google’s traffic app, Waze, recently started beta-testing a similar product for commuters in Tel Aviv.
Update: The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that Uber is now looking to raise $2.5 billion to support its operations in China. The company has already brought in $1.2 billion through a funding round that started in June.
[via New York Times]