Uber announced Friday that it will soon allow UK users to rent cars through its app in partnership with car rental company CarTrawler, according tomedia source The Verge. Users will be able to select the new Uber Car Rental option within the app and browse the available cars for the selected date and location. You can then pick up your car from “hundreds” of car rental companies. The UK launch follows trials in France and Australia.
This process works in a somewhat different way than Uber’s bike or motorcycle rental. While Uber says it is technically allowed to make a reservation while collecting a car (as it does when renting its Jump bike in the UK), it encourages users to make a car reservation at least 24 hours in advance. Car hire can be cancelled within 48 hours of pick-up, and Uber promises a discount of up to 25%.
This isn’t the first time Uber has offered a rental car. Back in 2018, the company announced a similar plan to partner with Getaround in the United States, but later that year stopped its consumer-centric portion of the program and focused on providing rental cars only for its drivers. However, the COVID-19 pandemic may bring new ideas to the company. Although the company has introduced a range of health and safety precautions for its drivers in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, sitting in an enclosed space with strangers can still feel dangerous, while another option, public transportation, can also pose its own social distance problems. Uber says it cleans the vehicle thoroughly before the user hires a car.
Renting a car is just the latest new product Uber is exploring after being hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. Last month, the company reported a $1.8 billion loss for the quarter, and its ride-hitting business fell 80 percent from a year earlier. The recession has forced the company to lay off thousands of workers and warned that it may have to close its California operations after a court ruled that its drivers should be classified as employees.
In response, Uber is exploring more areas of development. It has acquired food delivery service Postmates, launched on-demand grocery delivery services in Latin America and Canada, and even teamed up with London’s commuter boat service to launch Uber Boat.
Although Uber said the service was available on Friday, the car rental feature did not appear to be available on iOS or Android apps until The Verge was released.