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Citing growing traffic congestion and a rising demand for transit alternatives, ride-share titan Uber recently announced the launch of a new service aimed at customers in crowded city centers. In a departure from its existing platform, the new service — UberFEET — will forego cars entirely, and will instead offer rides in select areas via piggyback.
UberFEET will be available as a new option within the Uber app, and will function much like UberX and UberRUSH. Based on your pick-up location and destination, you’ll have access to a fleet of “carriers” who can take you wherever you need to go — the main difference will be that UberFEET is unconstrained by roads, and offers true point-to-point transportation. Instead of entering and exiting a vehicle curbside, you can get picked up and dropped off just about anywhere, including your own couch.
In a press release, Uber spokesman Roland Gunner praised UberFEET as one of the company’s most out-of-the-box innovations. “We’re going beyond door-to-door to offer the most direct and efficient personal transportation service available,” said Gunner. “Whether you’re stuck in a taxi during rush hour or need to climb a few flights of daunting stairs, so long as your pick-up and drop-off points are accessible, UberFEET will get you there.”
UberFEET is the brainchild of systems engineer Carmelita Alvarado, who dreamed it up after suffering a broken leg in a rock-paper-scissors tournament. “Getting in and out of cars was a struggle,” she said. “My cast was too big and my crutches barely fit, so driving became impractical, even as a passenger.” Alvarado realized the market potential of piggyback rides when a roommate offered to carry her to a nearby ice cream shop. “One minute I was ordering a waffle cone, and the next, I was calling my team and telling them to get to the office right away; I knew we had something huge.”
The service will be available to all Uber users, but was designed especially for those seeking to boost productivity during their normal commute. Carriers will be equipped with what Uber calls the flatback — a wearable workstation that offers a flat surface for a tablet or small laptop, as well as a cup holder, charging port and a complimentary Wi-Fi hotspot. Riders will be able to focus on work without the distraction of having to obey traffic signals or follow directions, while carriers can focus on getting them both from point A to point B.
Uber is hailing the new service as a great opportunity for workers as well. Aside from the health benefits carriers will reap from regular exercise and strength training, UberFEET is projected to create tens of thousands of jobs in the ride-share sector for people who don’t want to invest in a car or are otherwise unable to drive. It’ll also help offset the potential long-term loss of jobs due to Uber’s recent investment in autonomous vehicles.
UberFEET is just the first of several new radical inventions currently in the works. The company is putting the finishing touches on a rickshaw service called UberRICKROLL that will launch later this year, and is developing a messenger program for conveying sensitive information via trained pigeons (UberFLY). Gunner is optimistic that these advancements will help the company rebound from what has so far been a rocky start to 2017.
UberFEET is now available for beta testing in several cities, and will be fully rolled out on National Walking Day, next Wednesday, April 5. Through the end of the month, both new and existing users can get a $10 credit toward piggyback rides by using promo code APRILFOOL. If you have a chance to try it out, please let us know what you think.
Featured image courtesy of Weekend Images Inc. via Getty Images.
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