Uber Introduces Courier Service in Select Markets, Putting Drivers to Work
Regardless of whether small businesses have been deemed “essential” or “non-essential” by their local governments, there’s no doubt that their operations have been impacted. While some essential businesses have been making adjustments and even hiring more to meet demand, those in the non-essential category have had to get creative in hopes of producing revenue and keeping their employees paid. Speaking to that latter dilemma, this week Uber announced new courier and delivery services meant to help their drivers find essential work.
Uber’s latest ventures are Uber Connect and Uber Direct. With Uber Connect, users can send packages in a contact-free manner by requesting a driver via the rideshare app. When the driver arrives, the customer can place their package in the driver’s trunk, share the ride information with the recipient, and have them meet the vehicle curbside to retrieve the package. Uber notes that packages sent via this service must weigh less than 30 pounds and be valued at less than $100. Additionally some of the prohibited items include alcohol, medication, dangerous items, illegal items, etc. Currently Uber Connect is available in 25 cities in the United States, Mexico, and Australia.
As for Uber Direct, it will offer a new way for businesses to deliver to their customers. For example, a pilot program in New York City allows Cabinet users to receive their over-the-counter medication orders via Uber. Other tests of the service so far include parcel service in Portugal, pet supplies in Australia, and medicine deliveries in South Africa.
Both of these services emerge at a time when most Americans are currently under some form of a stay-at-home order. Thus, Uber’s rideshare business has dropped significantly. That said, the company does also offer restaurant delivery through its Uber Eats app, which has seen a surge in new restaurant partners since most municipalities are only allowing businesses to offer take-out. On that note, Uber Eats has been waiving delivery fees for local and independent locations in a bid to bring them more business during these turbulent times.
Although services like Uber and Lyft could hardly be considered small businesses at this point, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of their workforces are made up of independent contractors — or small businesses in their own right. Given this reality, it’s nice to see Uber pivoting and trying to find a way for its drivers to make money while also keeping themselves safe. While it’s unclear what the future will hold for either Uber Direct or Uber Connect, for now, these services seem like smart moves on the company’s part.