SAN FRANCISCO (Bloomberg, AFP) - Uber Technologies Inc., challenging the taxi industry with its smartphone-based ride-hailing service, is turning its attention to the delivery business, expanding its service to provide burritos, flowers and pretty much anything else someone can haul around in a car.
The company said it is expanding its merchandise delivery programme, called UberRush, to San Francisco and Chicago from a pilot programme in New York. Uber has struck partnerships with Shopify, an e-commerce company, and Clover, a payments processor, to integrate UberRush into their services and help businesses from restaurants to retailers use Uber for deliveries.
"UberRush is now a business for Uber," said Jason Droege, who oversees the programme for the San Francisco-based company. "It is no longer an experiment."
UberRush is managed by local merchants who sell their products however they like - on the phone, online or in person, but not through the Uber smartphone app. The merchants schedule the delivery with Uber, which fetches the merchandise and texts the consumer when the product is on the way.
In New York City, UberRush also includes a peer-to-peer element, allowing people to use the delivery service to get stuff to their friends. Uber isn't expanding that feature outside of New York.
The product isn't to be confused with UberEats, another Uber project. With UberEats, people can order designated food items through the Uber application. UberRush won't advertise the products that it delivers inside Uber's application.
"Rather than you run out to run an errand, pick up food, go to a retail shop, etc., we can have all those products brought to you in a cost-effective, affordable way," Droege said.
Uber will collect fees of US$5 to US$6 (S$6.92 to S$8.30)for deliveries within one mile (1.6km), with the aim of getting the goods to consumers within minutes by car or bicycle courier.
The move comes weeks after online giant Amazon began recruiting drivers for on-demand delivery of its products in its hometown of Seattle, Washington, with plans to launch in several other cities soon.
Uber's ridesharing service has made it one of the world's largest startups, operating in dozens of countries, but has faced regulatory hurdles in many areas and protests from established taxi operators.