Something in the water?

Both of the United States's leading new digital car-hailing services, Uber and Lyft, announced Wednesday that they are opening up strikingly similar new lines of business. 

Uber launched UberPool, which allows Uber users to input their destination data and select the UberPool option, with hopes to pick up another passenger going the same direction. These passengers would split the price--reducing the cost of a ride by 40 percent, according to Uber's estimates.

Lyft launched Lyft Line, an option in the Lyft app that will match passengers with other riders going in the same direction for up to 60 percent less than a normal Lyft ride.

Lyft Line is rolling out in San Francisco today at 9 a.m. PT, and the company is offering first-time passengers a $25 credit to try out the service. Uber is launching in private beta only, noting that its "friends at Google will also be joining us in the beta," and that full launch is on hold because as an "early beta product, there will undoubtedly be kinks and surprises to work through." (A broader beta launch is promised for August 15.)

Sounds like Uber's product is a little less airtight as of launch.

These dueling launches are the latest in self-disruption: the act of competing--in these cases, on price--with one's own existing services.

"Since the early days of Uber, we’ve been excited about the idea of providing transportation so inexpensive and reliable, people can actually sell their cars," Uber wrote in a release.

These dueling launches are the latest in self-disruption: the act of competing--in these cases, on price--with one's own existing services.

More than a year ago, Travis Kalanick, a co-founder and CEO of Uber, told me "if anyone is going to be the 'low-cost Uber,' it's going to be Uber."

For Lyft, the launch of this carpooling service is something of a return to the company's roots. When Logan Green and John Zimmer founded Zimride in 2007, the company focused on facilitating ridesharing for long-distance trips from universities or other cultural centers. As I wrote earlier this year:

But it never caught on for a general audience. (Zimride still operates, although Green and Zimmer sold it to rental-car giant Enterprise Holdings last year.) In early 2012, Green and Zimmer decided to reimagine their project as something that could hit those "aspirational" and "popular" notes that Zimride bombed. They pulled three people from the 25-person Zimride team to build an app to automate the ride-sharing-bulletin-board idea--something that would function like a cross between a taxi and getting into a friend's car. And safe. They acquired the name Lyft. "Everything was clicking," Zimmer says. "And then it just took off from there."

In a release Wednesday, Lyft noted that a recent acquisition led them to rebuilding a carpooling system. In "April 2014, we acquired transit company Rover, bringing on co-founders David Dryjanski and Lev Popov to lead the creation of Line."

Uber, in its release--which did beat Lyft's in getting out first--didn't explain the origin of its new service. And it barely seemed to know how it would function for passengers. 

"This is also a bold social experiment. There’s the interaction between riders in an UberPool--should they talk to each other? When is that cool and when is it, well, annoying?" the release pondered.

Whenever UberPool launches to the public--you know, people who aren't their friends at Google--we will see. For now, Lyft is leading when it comes to the lowest-cost way to hail a ride. Or at least it leads that race in San Francisco.