Uber will pay you $1,000 to ditch your car for five weeks

Traffic got you down? If the idea of locking your car keys in a drawer and using alternate means of transportation sounds intriguing, Uber has the challenge for you. Today, the ridehailing company announced the One Less Car trial, in which 175 people in the US and Canada will be selected to ditch their cars for five weeks in exchange for cash and credits to be put toward other travel modes.

Call it a gimmick or a PR stunt, Uber says the aim is to highlight the high costs of personal car ownership, as well as all the external effects on our health and the cities where we live. Uber has long advocated for fewer cars on the road — even as studies have shown that the app-based ridehailing industry has intensified traffic congestion in cities.

The trial is modeled on a similar experiment conducted by Uber and the Behavioral Insights Team in Australia in 2023, in which dozens of residents were challenged to give up their cars for four weeks.

Uber says the aim is to highlight the high costs of personal car ownership

Now, Uber is bringing its experiment to North America. Car owners in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, Miami, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver interested in participating can sign up online for the five-week trial, which will take place July 22nd–August 25th. Uber will then select 30 people from each city to give up their cars during those five weeks.

Each participant will receive $1,000 — based on the average monthly cost for vehicle ownership in the US — to use on (what else) Uber rides, bike- and scooter-share, car rental and carshare, and public transportation. Here’s how the stipend actually breaks down:

  • $500 in “Uber Cash” redeemable in the Uber app for car trips, or Lime bike and scooter share.
  • $200 voucher redeemable for car rental or carshare.
  • $300 across other transportation modes, such as public transit.

Uber will also throw in a one-month free Uber One membership, in which subscribers can earn 6 percent Uber Cash on eligible rides and $0 delivery fees on eligible food, groceries, and more.

There are a few requirements before signing up. You must be 18 or older, have a driver’s license, a vehicle that you use more than three times per week, a bank card, and be comfortable documenting your experience. The first week will be considered the “control period,” where each participant will be expected to document their mobility habits.

Each participant will receive $1,000

There are a few other provisions to keep in mind. The Uber cash provided can only be used for Uber rides or Lime bike and scooter trips. For “cash-equivalent stipends,” Uber will encourage participants to submit receipts for their mobility purchases, whether its carshare services or public transportation.

If a participant owns two cars, Uber will require that participant to give up just one of their vehicles during the duration of the trial. If you’ve only got one car, then you’ll be required to give up that vehicle. In other words, the company is seeking to examine how people go “car light,” but not strictly “car free.”

“Many Uber riders tell us they want to live a more car-light lifestyle with a variety of ways to ride, including public transit, shared bikes and scooters, walking, and rideshare,” Adam Gromis, global head of sustainability policy at Uber, said in a statement. “This research is critical to help us figure out how to make car-light living possible for more people who want to save money, emissions and time in traffic.”

Uber isn’t the first company to come up with this idea for a car-free trial. It’s not even the first ridehail company to try it. In 2018, Lyft launched its “Ditch with Lyft” trial, in which hundreds of participants in dozens of cities were given $550 in Lyft credits, bikeshare, and other tender to give up their cars for a month. The challenge then morphed into an offer of free Lyft trips to people who sold their cars on Carvana.

Uber says it was inspired to tackle its own trial after seeing encouraging results in Australia, in which participants reported increased walking, biking, and public transit usage during the challenge. Uber concluded that people need access to at least four other modes of transportation in order to successfully ditch their cars. Still, few of the participants said they’d be willing to go so far as to sell their cars and rely only on alternative modes — only three of the 58 said they planned to do this “in the near future.”

It will be interesting to track the response to the challenge in these various cities, with various levels of transit, bike infrastructure, and density, to see how well Uber’s theory about personal car ownership plays out. And it will be equally interesting to see if Uber takes any lessons away about its own contributions to car traffic.

Update June 27th: This story has been updated to include more information about the rules.


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