Struggling with an 80% revenue decline in its ride-hailing business, Uber is rolling out a new option in Chicago and other U.S. cities — hiring a driver by the hour.
Beginning Tuesday, Uber Hourly will let riders make multiple stops with one Uber booking. In Chicago, the rate for the service will be $50 an hour, the company said.
Niraj Patel, director of rider operations, said the service received a pilot test in several overseas markets. He called it a “flexible option if and when you need a little extra time running errands, taking a loved one to and from a doctor’s appointment, or getting things done.”
The economic slowdown from the pandemic has cost Uber both patrons and drivers. Many drivers are keeping their vehicles parked because of lower demand and fears of exposure to the coronavirus. Patel said the hourly service should improve the situation.
“We hope this feature makes life easier for all customers during this ‘new normal’ and challenging time,” he said.
A spokesman for Uber’s main competitor, Lyft, could not be reached for comment.
Riders who request the service will be matched to drivers who have newer and larger vehicles that qualify for the Uber Comfort category. The company said drivers who opt into Uber Hourly will have no marks on their records if they decline those trips.
A mileage limit will apply but Uber did not immediately say what it is. Aside from Chicago, Uber said the service will begin Tuesday in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Tacoma, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Washington, D.C.
Riders can enter all their stops on the Uber app and can change them anytime during the trip. The hourly rate doesn’t include tolls.