Despite all their recent controversy Uber continues growing and broadening their brand. The company just launched Uber Freight, the service that necessitated the blog. It’s exactly like Uber, except with Freight the drivers are actually truck drivers and the cargo isn’t a human being, but actual cargo. The transportation bigwig has already shown an inclination to diversify. This latest move looks like a further expression of its desire to outgrow its ride-hailing origins.
Uber Freight is an app available for Android and iOS. It connects shippers with carriers and individual drivers capable of hauling loads to their desired destination. There were already ways in which that link could be established, but Uber hopes it can bring a level of ease and predictability to the process.
The most important benefit Uber Freight provides to its users is the ability to easily book loads via the app. Similar to how the ride-hailing app works, drivers, and carriers can look up a list of shippers that need transportation, and book a haul immediately. Uber promises to pay carriers who successfully complete trips within seven days. This eliminates the tedious negotiations and extended waiting periods drivers sometimes have to go through before getting paid.
Although still very much known for changing how people commute with its ridesharing service, Uber has consistently added new and diverse capabilities to its portfolio. For example, UberEATS is an ancillary service that delivers food from local restaurants on demand. Uber Business leverages its network to create a ride management platform for companies.
With Freight, Uber takes on a sector that’s responsible for almost a tenth of all miles commuted in the US while carrying 14 billion tons in cargo annually. Clearly, it’s a valuable industry that sees activity all through the year. Working within it, though, is notoriously challenging, with discrimination and low wages being the most commonly faced problems. Uber presents Freight as an answer to those problems, thanks to upfront pricing, timely payouts, and fixed accessorial fees. Despite those benefits, Uber might not be in this just to support the truckers; their intentions might actually be to the contrary in the long run.
There are those who see Uber Freight as a precursor Uber’s upcoming autonomous truck fleet. It acquired the ability to create those when it bought Otto, which has already done a test run in which it delivered 50,000 cans of Budweiser with a self-driving 18-wheeler. It’s possible Uber Freight is a means for the company to gather data on routes and conditions across US highways which it can then use to build the intelligence it needs to make its autonomous trucks a commercial reality. So they’re helping now, but Uber may be looking to make some jobs in the industry obsolete eventually. Until then, keep on truckin’.
Prateek Jose is a writer and engineering undergrad from India with an unhealthy obsession for obscure historical trivia. Conversations about absurdist fiction and the technological singularity make his day. He’s already uploading parts of his brain to servers by writing for websites such as this one.
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