Need to catch up on the latest headlines as you zip across town to your next meeting? Uber says it's got you covered.
The ride-hailing company on Tuesday introduced a service called "Uber Trip Experiences," which it will use to deliver content including playlists, news bulletins and local travel tips directly to passengers. Uber won't actually be creating these "moving experiences" itself. Instead, they'll be provided by third parties with the expertise in curating music, news and so on.
The time the content takes to consume will be synchronized with the estimated duration of the journey. The feature could also perform tasks such as letting homeward-bound Uber customers relay orders to a connected thermostat, giving the house time to warm up ahead of their arrival.
Uber's estimated valuation may be bigger than the economies of many countries, but the ever-expanding San Francisco-based startup, now operating in 58 countries, still faces its share of challenges: opposition from traditional taxi companies, competition from Lyft and others, battles with its drivers over whether or not they're employees, negative press about alleged assaults by drivers. By providing services that cater to the lifestyles of its highly connected customers, Uber can stay on top of its game and continue to endear itself to users.
Uber emphasized in a blog post that the new service will be totally controlled by the passenger. This means if you want to sit back, close your eyes and take five minutes to yourself, you still can. You will also have to give individual apps permission to connect to Uber and access your trip information, something that can be just as easily reversed on an app-by-app basis.
Trip Experiences is effectively an extension of Uber's API, the software tool that over the last year has allowed developers to build Uber booking capabilities into third-party apps, including Facebook Messenger, OpenTable and StubHub. By keeping itself open to these partnerships at this stage in its growth, the company is creating more opportunities for itself to become the go-to service for users who regularly use these apps.
Developers will not be allowed to take advantage of Uber integration to distribute unsolicited advertising or promotions or passengers, said an Uber spokeswoman. "The goal of Trip Experiences is for developers to provide added value to their app users not irritate them with ads."