Uber Decides to Pick Up Amazon's Slack with New Delivery Services

Image for article titled Uber Decides to Pick Up Amazon's Slack with New Delivery Services
Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP (Getty Images)

Uber recently expanded its services to include grocery deliveries as a direct result of the covid-19 pandemic. Now the company is adding two more delivery services, Uber Direct and Uber Connect, according to an announcement it released yesterday. Both are only available in select cities in specific countries to start, but could expand to more cities, states, and additional countries if they prove popular. The company hopes to offset the massive drop in people using its bread-and-butter car-hailing service with these new offerings.


For Uber Direct, Uber is working with boutique retailers like Cabinet in New York City and official government entities like South Africa’s Western Cape Department of Health to deliver over-the-counter or prescription medication to customers. It’s also working with Greencross in Australia to deliver pet supplies directly to people’s homes and Portugal’s national postal service to deliver packages.

Uber Connect allows people to send small, same-day packages, like toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, or anything else a friend or family member might need or want. Just leave the package on your doorstep and an Uber driver will pick it up and deliver it to your specified location. It’s only available in a few select cities and countries, though. In the U.S., it’s available in: Austin, Baltimore-Maryland, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando, Phoenix, San Antonio, Tampa Bay, and Washington D.C. Globally, it will also be available in cities including, but not limited to: Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth (Australia), and Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, and Tijuana (Mexico).

Both new delivery services are reminiscent of the company’s UberRush program, which was discontinued in 2018. UberRush was an on-demand delivery service for almost anything, provided that it didn’t weigh too much. But UberEats, the company’s food delivery service, proved more popular. Reviving a tweaked version of UberRush could be more successful this time around, considering the coronavirus-induced boost in demand for delivery services. Amazon has delayed shipping times on non-essential items for Prime members, in some cases up to a month. Instacart and other grocery delivery services are so flooded with requests that many people have to place their order at least a week in advance, or wait until a delivery time slot opens.

But even though these companies are looking for additional drivers and workers, their response to the covid-19 pandemic has been less than ideal. Instacart workers recently went on strike, demanding better working conditions. U.S. senators are demanding Amazon improve its working conditions for warehouse employees, especially after a worker at a Queens facility tested positive for covid-19 and a California worker died after contracting the virus. Amazon also temporarily shut down a warehouse in France after a court found its pandemic response inadequate.

Uber recently expanded its drivers’ sick leave policy, with the caveat that the money each driver receives will decrease over time. The company says it has also started shipping sanitizing supplies to its drivers and encouraging riders to stay home.

Update: Uber reached out to Gizmodo to clarify where Connect is currently available. This article has been edited to list those cities and countries.