Uber’s been coming up with some pretty out-there product launches in the recent past — last year, it put self driving cars on the roads, and a month ago, had come up with a concept to launch flying taxis by 2020. Uber’s latest launch, though big, is a lot more grounded.
Uber has officially launched Uber Freight, its long haul trucking service. “We hope to empower a community of carriers by providing upfront, transparent pricing that’s guaranteed, fast payment, and the ability to book a load simply, with just the touch of a button,” says Uber Freight’s Facebook page. Uber’s also released a new product video, which follows a truck driver and his dog as they driver through the idyllic American countryside. As they reach their destination, Uber makes a payment to the driver through its app.
Uber for trucks has always seemed to be a pretty logical extension of the Uber’s core service. It had been on the cards since Uber bought self driving truck startup Otto last year. Otto, though, has been central to one of Uber’s many controversies. Otto’s founder Anthony Levandowski had quit Google to start the company, and it had been acquired by Uber for $650 million six months later. Google has since alleged that Levandowski stole confidential secrets from Google which helped Otto get off the ground — a few months after being founded, Otto had given an impressive demonstration of its abilities by driving a self driving truck on a California highway.
The Google-Uber case is being heard by the courts, but it looks like Uber’s freight service will not incorporate any self driving capabilities. Uber’s currently letting drivers in the US sign up for the service, but given its global reach, it shouldn’t be surprising if the company rolls out the feature in other countries soon.
An Uber-like service for trucks has been long thought viable since Uber saw success with its solution for cabs. Several companies had jumped into the fray, including California-based Doft, which calls itself Uber for moving, GoShare, and India-based Blackbuck, which aims to connect truck drivers and customers. Even Amazon was rumoured to be secretly developing an “Uber for trucks” service to target the $800 billion market. But Uber’s latest launch shows that if Uber has its way, Uber for trucks might just end up being Uber.