"Go anywhere, get anything" is Uber's latest mantra. According to a blog post by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, the rideshare company will give users in the U.S. the option to book COVID-19 vaccines right through the app. The vaccine booking option is an expansion of Uber's existing offer for underserved communities. Since February, the company has emphasized providing cost-free commutes to vaccine appointments at Walgreens outlets for people from communities where public transit is scarce.
The company is also offering new ride options, like hiring UberX vehicles by the hour, and options to collect groceries or takeout while en route somewhere. What the blog post does not mention, unsurprisingly, is that this means a lot of extra work for Uber drivers. Compounding the issue is the fact the company faces a driver shortage amid protests concerning low wages, job precarity, and concerns about COVID-19 transmission.
Hail and jab — Through a partnership with Walgreens, Uber will give app users throughout the United States a chance to book a vaccine appointment within the app. Uber users will have to select the "Need a vaccine" option, put in their zip code, see if there is a vaccine available near them, and if there is, proceed to order a ride.
"We’ve committed 10 million free or discounted rides to help underserved and communities of color get to and from their appointments. And we’ve launched the Vaccine Access Fund alongside Walgreens, PayPal, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to allow anyone to donate additional free rides to those in need," Khosrowshahi explained. On top of that, the company says it has gathered over $380,000 in contributions for paying for these rides.
A slow return to normalcy — While the COVID-19 vaccine push is relevant to the pandemic, Uber is also trying to bring its business back to pre-pandemic levels. To that end, the company points users to Uber Rent, which lets you rent an Avis, Budget, or Hertz rental car for extended travel. Uber Rent goes live for Washington, D.C., in May, and will be expanded to the rest of the United States later this year. Customers will also have the option to have their rental car delivered to them for an additional fee.
Additionally, Uber Reserve will let users book rides 30 days in advance. If the ride is unexpectedly canceled, Uber says it will credit the user with Uber Cash. A savings hub will also be introduced, allowing Uber users a chance to take advantage of discounts and deals as well as “restaurant loyalty programs” through Uber Eats, though it isn’t clear if this is limited to Uber Cash only or not.
The COVID-19 pandemic had an undeniable effect on Uber's business, though not all of it detrimental. While COVID-19-induced shutdowns crushed Uber's profitability for 2020 and also led it to cut at least 6,000 jobs, it ended up boosting Uber deliveries as millions stayed home.