Uber today revealed it was launching two new services for users that essentially turn Uber‘s drivers into item couriers — and in both cases, it seems the intent is to help drivers who are struggling thanks to the coronavirus.
With Uber Direct, drivers can now deliver items from non-food stores — it’s essentially an expansion of UberEat’s expansion into groceries. Uber offers as an example pet food and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, and I can imagine several other use cases of things you want but might not necessarily consider worth leaving the house for.
Direct might be beneficial to certain businesses that aren’t seeing a lot of foot traffic right now due to the majority of customers choosing to stay at home — actually, the first thing that springs to mind is office supplies, in my case. Since I work from home, I buy a lot of my own office supplies, and since Amazon is now staggering deliveries on non-essential goods, a Direct purchase would probably get here more quickly. Also, several retail stores are projected to close thanks to COVID-19 — Neiman Marcus is already filing for bankruptcy — so this might help keep some above water.
Uber Connect is more of a short-distance courier service, with which users can send packages to family and friends with same-day delivery. Uber knows exactly who the audience is for this too, saying of it: “Whether it’s a care package, a board game, or an extra roll of much-needed toilet paper, you can send it by requesting “Uber Connect” in the Uber app.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a veritable black market spring up in my neighborhood of friends leaving much-needed items on each other’s porches, so I can totally see this being useful.
According to the press release, this is part of Uber‘s efforts to find new opportunities for drivers to have something to do while ride-hailing is on the decline, saying it will “do our best to provide earning opportunities for drivers and delivery people. Our goal is for Uber Connect and Uber Direct to help drivers find essential work today, while unlocking new opportunities in the future.”
Uber Connect is available in 25 cities across Mexico, the US, and Australia. No word on who can use Direct at the moment, except that it’s available through “select retailers.”