Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced in Toronto on Thursday expansion plans for the ride-sharing company’s operations in the city.
Uber is launching a new product for Toronto — dubbed “Express Pool” — and the company plans to ramp up its workforce in Canada, from around 200 people today to 500 employees in the future.
Uber is trying to rebound after dealing with waves of controversy, from complaints about a sexist workplace culture, to stories about poor working conditions for drivers and a company reputation for combative relationships with local regulators.
In this context, Uber announced this week a rebrand — the Uber logo is now slimmer, and 75 per cent lower-case — and earlier this year The Information reported that the company is embarking on a $500-million global advertising campaign to rehabilitate Uber’s public image.
Uber is also presenting itself not just as a simple ride-hailing app to replace taxi service, but with aspirations to be a “platform” for transportation of all sorts.
The Pool Express service is part of that. The original Uber Pool service launched in Toronto in 2016, offering cheaper rates if a rider is ok sharing the car with a stranger who’s going in the same direction. Express Pool builds on that by requiring riders to walk up to 250 metres to hop on their ride, and walk about the same distance when they’re dropped off.
The company says this will make for smoother rides and cheaper prices.
“Express POOL is our latest innovation to get more people into fewer cars by offering an affordable, sustainable carpool product,” Khosrowshahi said. “We believe products like this, combined with public transit, and small electric vehicles like bikes, can offer a true alternative to personal ownership, and we’re excited to take a step toward this vision in Toronto today.”
Andrew Macdonald, Vice President for Uber’s Americas Operations and Global Business Development, and one of the first Uber employees in Toronto way back in 2012, said that the expansion of the Toronto operation is going to focus on staffing up the company’s core engineering talent, and beefing up the Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) within the company that focuses on self-driving cars.
Macdonald said that Toronto’s leadership in artificial intelligence research, and the wealth of tech talent in the city makes it an easy fit.