Uber is well-known in the tech world for catalyzing the launch of an entire industry of on-demand apps and startups. In the new year, it seems that the company is looking to ride that wave and offer a constellation of on-demand services of its own. In order to prove that it’s got its eye on a lot more than just offering you a safer way to get around on a late night out, Uber has started off 2016 with an announcement that will dramatically expand its nascent same-day delivery service, UberRUSH.
Uber launched UberRUSH last October, with the goal of helping businesses improve their delivery service in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. The company has announced the introduction of the UberRUSH API, which will help a variety of companies deliver your orders more quickly. The company shares that the new API “will help businesses big and small build on-demand delivery right into their existing infrastructure and apps.” The API is already available to a closed set of Uber’s partners, so what else can you order from Uber beyond the usual ride to the airport?
If you live in Chicago, you can order a sweater or a pair of shoes from Nordstrom and get same-day delivery from the brand’s flagship store on Michigan Avenue. If you live in New York, you can order fresh flowers and gourmet gifts from 1800flowers. And if you live in San Francisco, you can order a new smartphone from T-Mobile without having to wait for it to arrive in the mail. The company is also partnering with designer apparel rental company Rent the Runway, chat-based shopping assistant Operator, local shopping service Curbside, and delivery service Google Express.
As the company’s blog post notes, the aim of releasing the UberRUSH API is to power “new ways of shopping that help you save time.” And if food delivery is more your speed than shopping for clothes or household essentials, you’ll be happy to learn that UberRUSH will also enable you to order from more than 25,000 restaurants through partners like EatStreet and Olo. Both are tapping in to UberRUSH to get your meals to you quickly.
Uber’s blog post explains that UberRUSH is about the company’s vision that “getting packages from A to B should be as easy as getting a ride.” So Uber is also working with platforms like SAP, Bergen Logistics, and Trade Global, which can “use the power of UberRUSH to integrate on-demand delivery directly into every business in their network with a few lines of code.” Many UberRUSH partners are running pilots in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City, and the UberRUSH website gives some examples of local businesses — including restaurants, boutiques, organic produce providers, florists, and even tailors — that are already having their products delivered by Uber’s drivers.
Andrew J. Hawkins reports for The Verge that the rollout of the UberRUSH API is not only a “less-than-subtle way to place its branded service within a variety of third-party apps,” but is also a clear illustration of “Uber’s desire to become not just the world’s de facto transportation service, but also its go-to delivery service.” Hawkins adds that as Uber looks to gain traction in delivering products for other companies, it’s “entering a very crowded market, where Amazon, Google, and other delivery startups are all clamoring to lock down big name retailers.” UberRUSH competes not only with established giants like Amazon, but with up and coming services, like Postmates, which delivers groceries, takeout food, and household supplies.
But this doesn’t meant that you’ll be ordering your groceries via Uber’s app. Instead, the API enables companies to integrate UberRUSH’s one-hour delivery service option into their own websites and apps. You’ll be able to have your items delivered by UberRUSH’s couriers, all while keeping an eye on when your delivery will arrive with the same kind of real-time tracking you get when you hail a ride with UberX.
Hawkins notes that it was a year ago that Uber announced that it would open its API to app developers who wanted to integrate its car-hailing service into their app. That opened the door for users to summon a car with the tap of a button in Google Maps, OpenTable, Trip Advisor, and a number of other apps. In December, the most high-profile integration was announced, when Facebook Messenger enabled users to hail a ride and track their driver’s progress from within the messaging app.