By Max Godnick
Uber redefined the ride-hailing industry for driversーnow it's adding another level of convenience to the passenger seat.
Last week, the company launched an exclusive global partnership with Cargo, the in-car commerce platform that allows drivers to sell daily essentials to riders. The service was already live in seven U.S. cities and has expanded to Los Angeles and San Francisco as part of the new deal.
The announcement marks the next phase of growth for Cargo, which has close to 8,000 drivers and has seen its fleet expand by 35 percent month over month since its rollout in 2017.
"The fastest way for us to really scale our platform and get Cargo into the hands of as many drivers as possible is to do it through Uber themselves," said Cargo founder & CEO Jeff Cripe in an interview with Cheddar on Monday. "We were united by wanting to provide the best in-car experience possible."
Uber drivers in Los Angeles and San Francisco can now collect Cargo boxes at driver support locations called Greenlight Centers. The boxes are filled with snacks, electronics, and cosmetics that customers can purchase. Cripe noted that many Uber drivers already offer these products but must pay out of pocket to do so.
Now, they can provide the same serviceーbut make money, instead of losing it.
"What [drivers] recognized in us was a partner that could streamline that and put that money back in their pockets as opposed to taking it out," Cripe said.
Cripe says drivers have, combined, made more than $1 million and sold over a million products to date. He added that those behind the wheel also tend to see their passenger ratings rise once they start using Cargo.
But will passengers be willing to spend on food and other items if fares surge?
Last week, Uber sent emails to its New York customer base, notifying them that its services may grow "more expensive and less reliable" if the city approves new regulations for ride-sharing companies.
While New York is currently Cargo's largest market, Cripe says he's not concerned.
"I don't necessarily think any fare increases or decreases will have much of an effect on us."
As for the future, Cripe says the company is paying close attention to Uber's plans for self-driving taxis. He explained that autonomous fleets would require a system for unattended merchandisingーbut he revealed it's a reality he's preparing for. He also sees more opportunities for entertainment, gaming, and connectivity.
"We want to establish ourselves as the leading provider of in-car service for ride sharing," Cripe said. "So, when autonomy does roll around, we're the best logistics provider in the market."
For full interview, click here.