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 a challenge for you. Today, the ride-hailing 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, but Uber says the aim is to highlight the high costs of personal car ownership, as well as 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 ride-hailing 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. 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 Uber rides, bike- and scooter-share, car rental and carshare, and public transportation. This includes $500 in "Uber Cash" redeemable in the Uber app, a $200 voucher for car rental or carshare, and $300 across other transportation modes such as public transit. Uber will also provide a one-month free Uber One membership.

There are a few requirements before signing up, including being 18 or older, having a driver's license, having a vehicle used more than three times per week, having a bank card, and being comfortable documenting the experience. The first week will be a "control period" where participants document their mobility habits.

Uber isn't the first company to come up with this car-free trial idea. In 2018, Lyft launched a similar "Ditch with Lyft" trial, and Uber was inspired to tackle its own trial after seeing encouraging results in Australia, where participants reported increased walking, biking, and public transit usage.

It will be interesting to see how the challenge plays out in different cities with varying levels of transit, bike infrastructure, and density. And it will be equally interesting to see if Uber takes any lessons away about its own contributions to car traffic. 

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