Uber’s best bet is to use its ubiquity and product breadth to beat rivals in ride hailing, scooters and food delivery. It’s the only U.S. company doing all three, but competition threatens to nibble away at its margins on each. But if it can become your one-stop shop for getting yourself or a meal from point A to point B, it might be able to salvage its share price and survive until self-driving cars change its economics.
So today at Uber’s own San Francisco launch event it unveiled a slew of changes across all its products, designed to promote Eats and micromobility, make life easier for drivers, keep riders safe and make transportation more accessible. The big highlight? Two new visions for the future of Uber’s home screen.
One test adds a prominent Uber Eats button to the bottom of the screen, and it’s already reaching some users in U.S., Canadian, European and Australian cities. An even more aggressive version replaces the hallmark map with two big buttons in the screen’s center: one for ride hailing, one for Uber Eats. Clearly it’s imperative to Uber to can get more of its nearly 100 million users Eating. This version is now testing in nine markets.
“We want to be the operating system for your everyday life,” says CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. “A one-click gateway to everything that Uber can offer you.” Uber’s share price rose 1% to about $32 following the news, but that’s still way down from its $42 IPO price due to a stock-wrecking earnings report in August that the company lost $5 billion.
Uber launches everything
-The expansion of its rider loyalty Rewards program to its first international markets starting with Brazil and Mexico
-The option to get favorite dishes from local Uber Eats restaurants as Rewards
-Flexibility in how your Rewards are applied so instead of always getting $5 in Uber cash, you could get 25% off your next UberX or 10% off your next Uber Eats
-Uber has new partnerships that let you convert loyalty perks from other businesses, like Aeromexico miles into Uber cash to spend on rides
-Uber is launching a new Jump bike with a removeable battery that users can swap out at charging wall docks located around cities
-Uber will start showing bikes and scooters, including those from Lime, on the main Uber map to remind users they don’t always have to drive
-Uber Copter will be available for all New York City users offering eight-minute rides to JFK airport
-Uber is formally launching Eats Pass, which lets users subscribe to unlimited free Uber Eats deliveries
-Uber’s revamped Uber Pass for $24.99 for surge price protection on every ride, free Eats deliveries and free Jump scooter and bike rides
-Allergy-friendly filters in Uber Eats search and easy ways to communicate allergies and dietary restrictions to restaurants
-To reduce waste, Uber Eats will now default to not including utensils and straws unless you request them
-A partnership with Feeding America will allow restaurants that use Uber Eats to easily donate excess food, and see Uber Freight moving food donations between the nonprofit’s 200 food banks and 60,000 pantries
-Uber has worked with restaurants to launch 5,100 virtual kitchens that just sell food for delivery, and is exclusively working with celebrity chef Rachel Ray on her own one
-Uber will now allow you to text 911 from your ride with a pre-filled message that includes your car make, year and color, your current location and destination and room for you to add info about your emergency
-Uber Bike Lane Alerts, which notifies you when you’re being dropped off in a bike lane to make sure you don’t hurt anyone opening your door, is expanding to 200 more cities around the world
-Uber pin check lets riders opt for drivers to have to provide a special pin code that users input to verify they’re getting in the right car
-Uber is prototyping an ultrasound-based system that uses an inaudible tone emitted from rider and driver phones to ensure they’re supposed to be together
-Uber’s driver check feature now makes drivers verify their identity by moving their head in certain ways like they’re training Face ID to ensure no one else uses their driver account, instead of just using a selfie
-Uber is adding better heat maps for finding high-demand areas
-Uber’s new “Back to a Busy Area” feature lets drivers who’ve dropped someone off somewhere deserted set a destination back to a populated areas and ride requests will be filtered to get them back there
-Drivers can now work delivering Uber Eats orders even while they’re traveling away from their home region
-Uber Pay now lets customers deposit cash at certain brick-and-mortar stores and have it placed in their Uber account so they can pay even if they don’t have a credit card. Partners include some gas stations and shops working with Green Dot like Walmart. The massive potential here would be for the company to build out a WeChat-style wallet where the credit cardless can pay for lots of things outside its app using Uber Pay
–Uber Transit, with public transportation trip planning, nearby stop finding and in some cases mobile ticketing, by the end of 2019 with Paris, Mexico City and San Francisco launching today
–Uber’s new Incubator will work with employees and outside startups to develop new experiences on top of the Uber platform, from scooters that drive themselves to chargers to augmented reality maps of the world
The Uber launch event, peppered with snacks from top SF Eats vendors and installations promoting Uber’s feel-good work around the world, showed the company is moving quickly even if not cohesively. It’s desperately trying to cross-promote its different features, optimize all its options and break into new businesses while reassuring people it cares about safety, drivers, the environment and the law.
The momentum was undercut by new reports of Uber’s negligence about removing problematic drivers from the platform. The Washington Post reports that one it failed to kick off following complaints of harassing passengers went on to be accused of sexually assaulting a rider.
Uber still has a lot to clean up from its growth-at-all-costs days under Travis Kalanick. The concern is that a lagging share price and scattershot vision could lead it back into those murky waters. That puts more pressure than ever on its product teams to keep users coming back despite the lingering toxicity of the Uber brand.