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The king of ridesharing had a crazy busy week, with expansion of UberEATS and other launches
When you've raised a billion-dollar round several times over, you can do a lot in a week. Here I've aggregated all the biggest Uber-related news from the past week, including the expansion of its food delivery service, rumors of a major push into self-driving cars, and the launch of a service to take riders to Tijuana.
As SpoonRocket dies, UberEATS expands
In the same week that saw SpoonRocket shutting down its food delivery service, Uber expanded its own food delivery app UberEATS in two ways.
First, instead of simply sitting within the primary Uber app, UberEATS now has a standalone app for iOS and Android. From the app, you can check out menus from local restaurants and order food any day of the week. Items from the app's "Instant Delivery" menu can be delivered in as quick as 10 minutes.
The second big announcement is the expansion of UberEATS to several new cities, including Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, and Toronto. Other cities getting access next will be Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Melbourne, New York, Paris, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
Uber's news is all the more impressive given the turmoil and increasing consolidation in the food delivery space. SpoonRocket shut down because it wasn't able to raise funds in the cooled down VC market, but Uber has the biggest warchest among private companies. Though SpoonRocket died, it will live on with Brazil's iFood, which announced this week that it had acquired the company's technology.
Google Maps goes beyond Uber
Ever look up directions on Google Maps? Then you've probably seen that, in addition to options for driving, biking, walking, and public transportation, the app also shows Uber—complete with a fare estimate.
This week Google announced on its Lat Long blog that the monopoly is over. In addition to Uber, Google Maps will also display the following ridesharing options: 99Taxis in Brazil, Ola Cabs in India, Hailo in the UK and Spain, mytaxi in Germany and Spain, and Gett in the UK.
The update will be landing on Android first and iOS soon after.
Uber wants to go autonomous
As much noise as Uber makes about wanting to treat its riders right, we all know it's just a temporary fix. Because once Uber gets self-driving cars, they won't have to deal with an always-variable, sometimes-complaining workforce anymore. And they'll cut out a major company expense.
The latest news demonstrating Uber's push into self-driving cars came from a report in Germany Manager Magazin saying that Uber had placed an order for over 100,000 Mercedes S-Class cars. Those cars aren't fully autonomous—yet—but Mercedes-Benz (along with Audi, Daimler, BMW, and many other manufacturers) are working toward the cause.
Uber's push into purchasing cars may be a response to the partnership between Lyft and GM, and their recently announced Express Drive program, which allows drivers to rent fully qualified cars so they can drive for Lyft whether or not they own the right car.
Take an Uber to Tijuana
If you're living in the San Diego area, you might want to be careful where you're tapping in the Uber app. The company just launched a new feature called UberPASSPORT which will let you hail a ride to Tijuana.
Along the line of choices displaying uberX, UberBLACK, and other ride options, Uber users will now see PASSPORT, which is set to take passengers from San Diego to Tijuana. Depending on the specific start and endpoints of the journey, the ride costs between $90 and $160.
As Uber says multiple times in its blog post announcing PASSPORT, you should be sure to bring necessary documentation, including your actual passport, in order to get back into the country. Also, while Uber operates locally in Tijuana, the ride you hail there will only take you to the border. After you walk across the border, you'll have to figure out how to get back to San Diego.
Uber launches a business checking account
In partnership with Green Dot Corporation, provider of prepaid MasterCard and Visa debit cards, Uber launched Uber Checking by GoBank, a customized business acount version of Green Dot's mobile checking account.
Desgined specifically for Uber drivers, the account allows those drivers to receive instant payments from the rides, as opposed to waiting several days—the typical wait time today. Though membership to the account is free for six months (whenever the account receives a direct deposit from Uber earnings), the standard monthly fee for the service is $8.95. Beyond that fee, GoBank says it doesn't charge fees for overdrafting or other penalties.
Family profiles link up to 10 Uber users
Uber this week also launched Family Profiles, designed to make it easier for individuals to pay for rides taken by their family, friends, or even colleagues. Because nothing makes Uber happier than giving you more ways to pay for an Uber, right?
The Family Profile organizer creates the initial profile and invites contacts to join. The Family Profile rider can select, when they're in the process of hailing a ride, if they want to request the ride under their "Personal" account or under their "Family" account.
The new feature is currently only available in Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix.
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Uber is a ridesharing service headquartered in San Francisco, United States, which operates in multiple international cities. The company uses a smartphone application to arrange rides between riders and drivers.