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Uber unveils new delivery services as ride demand tanks

A month ago Uber was operating 16 million trips a day. But now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, ridership has fallen through the floor as people are encouraged to stay home to help reduce the infection rate.

As a result of the sudden downturn, Uber has been looking at how it can keep its drivers working in ways that also help their communities in these challenging times.

While it’s already organizing free rides and food deliveries for health care workers, seniors, and people in need, and also delivering meals to people in lockdown via Uber Eats, the ridesharing giant this week unveiled two new delivery services aimed at helping out during the crisis.

Uber Connect

Currently a trial service, Connect lets customers in select cities send packages to family and friends via a few taps in the Uber app. Uber describes Connect as “a cost-effective, same-day, no-contact delivery solution” that can be used to send items such as “a care package, a board game, or an extra roll of much-needed toilet paper.”

The new peer-to-peer service is available now in more than 25 cities in the U.S., Australia, and Mexico — just look for the Uber Connect option inside the main app to see if it’s in your area. If it’s not, there’s a chance it’ll be added later.

Uber Direct

Direct, on the other hand, builds upon Uber Eats’ recent expansion into grocery and convenience store delivery, and lets shoppers place orders from select retailers for home delivery.

In New York City, for example, Uber recently launched a pilot service with online pharmacy Cabinet for the delivery of over-the-counter medication, while another pilot in Portugal involves a partnership with the country’s national postal service to deliver parcels to customers’ homes. Direct is also being trialed in Australia, where Uber is coordinating with Greencross Vets to deliver pet supplies to owners.

Like Connect, the service could expand over time, so check in to the app periodically for updates.

Earlier this month, in response to the drastic drop in rides, Uber added a new Work Hub section to its app to help drivers find additional employment opportunities with not only Uber, but other companies as well.

“The most important thing we can do right now is support drivers,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in a post announcing Work Hub’s launch, adding, “They’re doing essential work to keep our communities moving as we fight this virus, but with fewer trips happening they need more ways to earn.”

Ridesharing rival Lyft has also been looking at ways to keep its workers earning, with a new service called Essential Deliveries aimed at transporting important items for government agencies, local non-profits, businesses, and health care organizations.

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Trevor Mogg
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