- Uber rolled out a new delivery service, Rush
- Rush is only available in Manhattan right now
- Online delivery services have a checkered track record
Online delivery services have a checkered history at best. But Uber, the app-oriented car service, is giving it another go.
The company, which lets app users hook up with nearby drivers for hire, has announced Uber Rush, which promises to let "your packages travel like a VIP."
Being tested only in Manhattan, it's a lot like a typical courier service. First, users summon up a vehicular courier (the company's reportedly adding bike and foot messengers to its fleet). Next, the app quotes them a price. And then the courier hauls an item or items from Point A to Point B.
The service doesn't allow users to order items, such as lunch, and have them delivered. It's just for transporting items already in their possession.
Rush is now an option on the existing Uber app in areas where it is available.
During the initial dotcom boom of the late '90s and early 2000s, several online delivery services tried, and failed, to catch on.
Kozmo.com is a classic story from the dotcom bubble burst. The website, which promised to deliver items such as DVDs, food and Starbucks coffee within one hour, raised $250 million in capital, launched in 1998 and was out of business by 2001.
Webvan, an online grocery-delivery service, went bottom-up the same year, in what some have called the biggest dotcom flop in history.
But the emergence of mobile technology has some Web players reconsidering the quick-delivery model. Ebay Now promises delivery of good from local stores in less than two hours for a $5 fee. The Postmates app similarly offers food and other goods delivered for prices starting at $5.
Prices for Uber Rush appear to be higher ($20-$25), more in line with what New York City couriers typically charge. Uber's model is to take 20% of whatever price their drivers charge.
Uber uses drivers who have applied to participate and who have passed background checks and other vetting to ensure they are properly licensed and insured. They must be at least 23.
The company says it will expand Rush to other areas of New York if it succeeds in its initial test phase.