If you've ever had an awkward UberPool ride, this might help.
A patent application published online Thursday hints that Uber is interested in using social media information to connect users with UberPool riders with similar interests.
Uber riders would receive an alert through the Uber app that a fellow passenger attended the same school, grew up in the same town or was a friend of a friend on Facebook. Other commonalities, such as country of origin or birthplace, could also be shared.
The feature would function as a social lubricant, making riders feel more comfortable sitting in a vehicle with a stranger.
The patent application describes solving a problem of "semi-social gatherings," where the circumstances don't lend themselves to asking a bunch of questions about someone and seeing if you have anything in common.
Many UberPool and LyftLine customers today sit in silence together in the backseat, not knowing that they have a meaningful connection to their other rider.
The patent application describes how riders could also have the option of only riding with other passengers whom they share something in common with. This may entice more people to use UberPool.
Uber continues to look for ways to change the way people get around cities.
"The kind of impact [Uber] is going to have on our cities — 95 or 98% of it is still yet to happen," said Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in The Upstarts, a new book published this week. "What if I said there's going to be no traffic in any major city in the U.S. in five years? ... I think that might happen."
To reduce traffic congestion, transportation experts say we'll have to spend less time riding alone and more time riding with other passengers. This will help use road space more efficiently and cut down on the number of cars needed.
Uber's latest patent application, filed last summer, could encourage more users to carpool. Although it has not yet been granted by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office -- and there's no guarantee Uber will incorporate the concept -- it teases Uber's vision for the future.