Uber’s latest logistics play: UberRush in SF delivers packages

uberrush (1)Uber took another step into logistics Wednesday, launching UberRush in San Francisco to deliver packages door to door.

The move comes a month after the San Francisco debut of UberEats, which does curbside meal deliveries at lunchtime in a couple of neighborhoods. Rush is already available in New York and is now starting in Chicago, while Eats is in several major cities.

Both products show Uber evolving beyond ferrying people — something the company acknowledges is its future. “In a world where technology can deliver the ride you need in 5 minutes, imagine all the other goods and services you can get delivered safely with the touch of a button,” CEO Travis Kalanick said in June at the San Francisco company’s fifth anniversary party.

Consumers won’t see UberRush on their phones. Instead, participating merchants — it’s opening with a dozen local partners, including bag maker Timbuk2 — can use a Web-based UberRush dashboard to request and track an Uber delivery person, who could be either a driver or a bike messenger. People and packages won’t share cars, said Uber spokesperson Laura Zapata.

“We are reaching out to drivers with high ratings who might want to opt in, or new drivers whose vehicles don’t qualify for our normal business of delivering people because they have two-door cars or their cars are not 2005 or newer,” she said.

In San Francisco, UberRush will cost $3 plus $3 a mile, with a $6 minimum. Costs vary by city.

“If every local business delivered, we’d all save time and energy,” said Jason Droege, head of UberEverything, in a statement. “But most simply can’t. Day-to-day operations are already complicated and delivery can cause all sorts of logistical headaches.”

Numerous observers think Uber’s future hinges on its ability to marshal its drivers and infrastructure into a global logistics system, delivering people, packages, food and other items.

“Everyone knows that Uber’s $51 billion valuation isn’t just from being a ride app,” said Harry Campbell, an Uber driver who runs website. “Logistics is what they’re selling investors on.”

Uber clearly faces enormous competition in the multibillion-dollar logistics world, from both long-established players like FedEx and UPS and newer on-demand rivals.

Campbell said anecdotal evidence from driver inquiries and article traffic on his site suggest that Postmates and DoorDash — which, like Uber, rely on freelance drivers in personal cars — are significantly more popular among drivers than UberEats, which admittedly is much newer.

“I haven’t gotten a single driver e-mail about UberEats, but even older Postmates articles get a couple of thousand views a day,” he said.

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