After getting a peek from Travis Kalanick earlier this month, Uber today officially launched Uber Freight, the company’s new service that will match truckers with companies who need cargo shipped across the country.
Uber Freight has its own app, of course, which is available today on iOS and Android. There’s a sign-up page for drivers, who will be vetted before they’re allowed to use the Uber Freight. The service “take[s] guesswork out of finding and booking freight, which is often the most stressful part of a driver’s day,” according to Uber, which says it’s dismantling a process that typically takes “several hours and multiple phone calls.”
The video Uber released makes the process look as simple as using its existing cab service. The app is full of a list of available jobs and the routes they require (say, Tulsa, OK to Memphis, TN), and each listing tells the driver what they’ll be hauling and how much they’ll be paid. Once they arrive in that destination and make the delivery they can then, like an Uber cab driver, find the next job.
Uber says that Uber Freight will help “level the playing field” for truckers, perhaps hinting at the inequality that plagues the trucking industry. Trucking is dominated by white men, and accounts of women and drivers of color facing discrimination while trying to break into the workforce are well documented. The biggest point of friction in these situations is building and maintaining relationships with the companies that hire drivers, so a service like the one Uber is offering could help alleviate that tension.
But because trucking is so physically demanding and time consuming, it typically requires lots of planning and budget monitoring on the part of the driver. As an Uber taxi driver, it might be fine if you drop a passenger off in a neighborhood with no return trips. That’s a much bigger problem if you’ve just driven 1,500 miles from home.
Uber’s not the only company trying to change the trucking industry. Amazon is reportedly working on a similar service that would pair drivers with companies that need goods delivered. Manufacturers big and small are also working on bringing semi-or fully-autonomous technology to long haul trucks.
Uber, of course, is also working on self-driving trucks following its acquisition of Otto. But while Otto may be at the core of Uber’s trucking ambitions, it’s also the center of the lawsuit filed by Waymo, the self-driving car division of Google’s parent company Alphabet. Waymo claims that Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer who founded the Otto, was using the startup as a shell company in order to steal Google’s self-driving tech and pass it on to Uber. That case is currently set to go to trial.