Business

Uber: 5 things you may not know about the multibillion-dollar business

Amid reports that Uber's worth could surpass $62 billion US, it's clear the company has ambitions stretching far beyond a ride-hailing service.

From food delivery to self-driving cars, Uber's business model includes more than selling rides

Uber's ride-hailing app, UberX, has drawn fierce opposition from taxi companies across Canada, but the company has other global business interests ranging from courier services to supporting the development of self-driving cars. (Reuters)

Bloomberg Business reported this week that Uber is trying to raise as much as $2.1 billion US in its latest financing round, which it says could place the company's value at $62.5 billion.

That's a big chunk of change for a company best known for its ride-hailing app.

But as the San Francisco-based company's full name — Uber Technologies Inc.—  suggests, its business operations extend far beyond competing with taxis.

1. It is in the meal delivery business

On its UberEATS website, the company promises to "deliver the best meals from favourite local restaurants in 10 minutes or less" in Toronto's downtown core and parts of the city's west end. It's a partnership agreement offering specific items from the menus of participating restaurants.

As of Friday, there were 13 Toronto restaurants listed on Uber's website. But it's not fully door-to-door service: Customers must meet the Uber driver at the curb to get their food delivery.

2. Uber delivers other stuff, too

The UberEATS website in Canada also advertises delivery of clothing gift sets from Joe Fresh in its menu section. What's the connection? Each gift set comes with a President's Choice food item (Joe Fresh and President's Choice are both Loblaw brands). 

In the U.S., Uber offers a courier service called UberRUSH for businesses in San Francisco, New York and Chicago. According to the UberRUSH website, it is also linked to online delivery services including Shopify, BigCommerce and 1-800-flowers.com. 

3. Uber is helping develop self-driving cars

Travis Kalanick, Uber's CEO, says the company embraces a future with self-driving cars. Media reports cite Uber as one of the companies (along with Google and Apple) leading the way in developing the required technology. 

Last February, Uber announced a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to create the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh. The initiative would allow Uber "technology leaders" to work with university faculty, staff and students in robotics engineering "to do research and development, primarily in the areas of mapping and vehicle safety and autonomy technology," according to a news release at the time.

4. It launched carpooling services in China 

According to Uber's website, it first introduced a carpooling service, called UberPOOL, in San Francisco in 2014, and then expanded it to Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas.

The website says riders are matched with drivers and fellow passengers going in the same direction who split the cost of the trip. Earlier this year, it launched a carpooling service called People'sUber+ in five Chinese cities: Chengdu, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. 

In September, the company announced it would also make its carpooling service available in Bangalore, India.  

5. Uber is trying to get into health care

In November, the Annals of Internal Medicine journal published a study about a one-day pilot project in 2014 when Uber delivered "influenza prevention packs" and users had the option to have a nurse come and give them a flu vaccine.

Under the banner of UberHEALTH, the company offered the one-day service again for $10 in 35 U.S. cities this year, saying, "convenience and delivery method are both key components of many people's decision of whether or not to get a flu shot."  

As well, Uber announced the appointment of a Harvard Medical School professor as its "first adviser in the field of health care."

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