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Unlimited Uber and 6 ways the app is planning for world domination

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David Cornish
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New Yorkers can now receive unlimited Uber trips for a one-off payment of $100 (£76.93).

Really. For the monetary equivalent of one heavy Friday night, users can sign up to Uber Plus - a new Amazon Prime-like subscription service - that grants them unlimited UberPool rides for the first two weeks of October, or for the full month for $200. 

The emphasis of Uber Plus is on ease of use, as their site explains: "Pay one upfront fee for unlimited access—and have one less thing to think about.". It's that 'Buy it now' ability to click and forget, to rest assured that you're getting value for money (so long as you use the service loads). It's a snap shot of Uber's plan for world domination via the roads, a hint at the next stage of the grand expedition the disruptive taxi app set out on back in 2010.

Here's where they're headed next. 

Self-driving cars

Uber users in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, are currently able to summon one of a fleet of Volvo cars from the app, as per the usual process of hailing an Uber cab. Should they be paired with a driverless car, they won't actually have to pay for the ride (for the time being).

It won't be a truly 'driverless' experience any time soon though: for safety reasons, an Uber driver is seated in the Volvo just in case anything goes wrong with the car's software, while a co-pilot also sits in the passenger seat, taking notes on the process with a laptop. Cars are also equipped with a tablet in the back seat, explaining to passengers the odd, sci-fi set up they'll have arrived in is totally safe.

"The goal is to wean us off of having drivers in the car, so we don’t want the public talking to our safety drivers," Krikorian told Bloomberg. Once the technology is safe, and legal changes have been made to allow Uber to roll out a fleet around the world, it'll help the company reduce driver costs - simply by virtue of not having them any more.

Subscription for all?

Uber Plus (not the same of UberPLUS that ensures you only get a ride in a plush car) is now available in seven US cities: New York, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, Miami, Boston, and Washington D.C.

Costs of the upfront subscription vary city-to-city, with variations in the perks offered including a set number of journeys for a one-off payment, to New York's unlimited model, and the ability to avoid surge charging. Sometimes it only applies to UberPOOL, other instances see it extend to UberX cars. In every case, it's a payment model that makes sense if you spend more time in the back of an Uber than a car you actually own. 

Uber's UK office told us there are currently no plans to roll an unlimited Uber service to the UK - for now. If the model can be shown to work in the right cities, with the right ride offers, you can expect it to roll around in the near future. 

An extension of Scheduled Rides

London's got 'em. Manchester does too. But Uber's potentially minicab-crippling Schedule service - that allows you to request an Uber 30 days to 15 minutes ahead of time - is yet to roll out to other UK cities. 

As and when the need arises in other UK urban populations, you can expect this Schedule Ride service to start undercutting minicab groups and other traditional taxi models that allow you to book ahead of time. You can bet it'll be cheaper. 

Uber for trucking

In August 2016, Uber announced it had purchased Otto - a startup company specialising in self-driving trucks. 

Otto co-founder Lior Ron then told Reuters of Uber's plan to enter the long-haul trucking business in 2017, and that's just the start.

The company has already started pitching to haulage groups and logistics companies - even approaching individual drivers to start forging a fleet comparable to Uber's taxi service. "We are talking with everyone," said Ron. "We don't want to develop technology just for the sake of technology."

Otto, the "Uber for trucking", will also help with the company's wider ambitions to see self-driving vehicles ease the workload placed on drivers, with Otto working on technology including navigation, mapping and tracking. Good luck, Eddie Stobart. 

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Deliveries - and just about anything else you can use a car for

Essentially, if it happens on wheels, Uber is probably interested in it.

Take the launch of UberEATS,the Deliveroo food delivery rival that launched in London this year - and UberRUSH, the courier delivery service that's launched in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago - or Uber Delivery, available in cities like San Francisco that allows its drivers to switch between picking up customers to picking up packages instead.

Uber is constantly trialling new services that can see its expansive workforce make the most from their vehicle. If you're thinking of starting up a new delivery/courier/driving business in the near future, you may want to reconsider. 

Uber of the skies

This week, Uber products head Jeff Holden told the annual technology Nantucket Conference that the company was working on vertical takeoff and landing drones. 

Drones for people. He's not kidding. Other groups like Ehang are already working on similar concepts, pictured above.

Holden stated that Uber hoped to "someday offer our customers as many options as possible to move around", suggesting that "doing it in a three-dimensional way is an obvious thing to look at."

He went on to suggest the technology could be ready within ten years - but it could take a lot longer to implement the complexities of building Uber airports with multiple drop off points around cities, in addition to clearing the legal work for allowing aircraft of this sort to zip about urban airspace. 

And to think it was only last year we were impressed when an Uber driver let us take control of the stereo with an Aux cable... 

(Images: Uber, iStock, AIR)

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David Cornish

Shortlist.com’s esteemed Tech Editor. David has a keen interest in video games, Star Wars and stuff that runs on batteries.

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