A third of Americans have never heard of Uber

Pew Research Center reveals that over 100 million U.S. adults don't know about ridesharing

Technology trends and news by Ronny Kerr
May 20, 2016
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Over $9 billion in venture capital. A $62.5 billion valuation—the highest in the world for a private company. Nearly 7,000 employees. Numerous lawsuits across the country.

For good reason, Uber is one of the most important, most influential, and most heavily discussed companies in the technology industry today.

And yet, a third of the country—over 100 million Americans—have still never heard of them, according to new data from a national Pew Research Center survey of 4,787 American adults. That’s easily one of the most striking and revealing data points to emerge from the rich report, which takes a closer look at the sharing economy and on-demand companies.

In a special section on ridesharing startups, Pew states that just 15 percent of American adults have actually used apps like Uber and Lyft, while over half (55 percent) of the country has heard of them but never used any.

“Notably, the availability of these services is geographically constrained in a way that many of the services discussed in this report are not,” explain the writers of the Pew report. “With some exceptions, they are largely only available in and around urban areas.”

But that doesn’t go the whole way to explain why so many people have never heard of ridesharing services. If 250 million people live in or around urban areas, then about that many should have access to the services provided by Uber and Lyft, which taken together have covered most U.S. cities. (Except where they’re banned, of course.)

In other words, it appears that even a good chunk of people living in areas served by ridesharing apps aren’t aware of those apps or what they do.

Pew also pulled out some interesting data around usage around ridesharing services. For example, a little over a quarter (26 percent) of users say they use the services at least one monthly, while over half (56 percent) use them even less often. Another smaller but notable contingent (17 percent) use the services either daily or weekly.

That data is interesting, but it’s necessarily affected by the fact that these services are so novel. Many users start using the apps through promotional discounts, and probably many others continue to use the services because of deep discounts offered. But how many of these users will continue to stay loyal to the apps over longer periods of time?

While there aren't big differences in how adults use Uber based on their gender or race, other demographics were more revealing. If you're 49 or younger, if you have a college degree, if you have a high salary (over $75,000), or if you live in an urban environment, you're much more likely to be a ridesharing app user.

A lot of this data seems very intuitive—except for the fact that so many people have never heard of Lyft or Uber. It’s only a matter of time before that changes.

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