Uber announced a new feature today that allows riders to book a ride up to 30 days in advance. It’s only being tested in Seattle currently, but will eventually be available in other "top business travel cities." It also represents a significant shift in the ride-hail company's operations, as Uber looks to broaden its customer base to a more business-minded clientele. Last month, Uber's main rival Lyft said it would experiment with scheduled rides in San Francisco, but only 24 hours in advance.
Booking a car ahead of time has typically been the exclusive realm of for-hire vehicle services like black car and limo companies. Previously, Uber and Lyft, which place a huge premium on efficiency, have said such features are unnecessary when a car can be summoned to your front door in about five minutes. The worry has been that rather than responding to immediate ride requests, drivers would be wasting time circling a neighborhood, waiting for a scheduled customer.
However, it is a clear attempt by the ride-hail industry to break into the B2B market and appeal directly to businesses that traditionally have used black car and limo services to shuttle their employees and clients around. Earlier this year, Uber said it would integrate with expensing services like Concur, Expensify, Certify, and Chrome River, to automatically send trip receipts to an employee's expense provider. Moreover, the service will only be available to business travelers to start. "We expect to make the feature broadly available to all riders as we continue the rollout," Uber says.