Uber has officially joined the scooter craze.
The ride-hailing company launched its own scooters in Santa Monica, California, on Tuesday. Riders now have the option of hailing a car or renting a bike or scooter from the Uber app in the city. And this is just the beginning, the company said.
‘As we work towards having your phone replace your car, we’re thinking about all the possible times you’d hop in the car and go, and what smart, equally as convenient option we could offer to get you there instead,’ Rhea Dookeran, Uber’s scooter product manager, wrote in a blog post.
Uber’s bikes and scooters are branded under the Jump moniker. Uber acquired Jump, a dockless bicycle rental service, in April. Now Jump heads Uber’s bike and scooter programs. Like Jump bicycles, the scooters will be red and black with a white ‘Jump’ logo.
The company aims to launch scooters in other US cities in coming months.
Electric scooters have been around for only about a year, but they’ve exploded in popularity. More than a dozen companies have launched the vehicles in major cities and college towns across the US. And the scooters have become a controversial topic among lawmakers and residents. Some people love being able to zoom around city streets on the vehicles, while others find the scooters to be a menace to pedestrians.
Some cities, like Denver and Austin, have cracked down on the scooters, putting limits on where they can go and park. Other cities, like San Francisco, have temporarily banned them. Most cities now require scooter companies to get permits to operate the vehicles.
Santa Monica issued permits to Jump, Lyft and the scooter companies Bird and Lime in August. Both Bird and Lime already operated scooters in the city; and Lyft launched its scooters there last month. Like Uber, Lyft is new to the scooter fad.
When Uber first started, it was all about hailing a car with a phone. But, over the past couple of years, the company has expanded its offerings. People can now get food delivery or a bicycle on demand and eventually maybe a self-driving car too. Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has said he wants the company to be ‘the Amazon of transportation,’ offering customers several options to get around town.
The Jump scooters are $1 to rent and then 15 cents per minute after the first five minutes. This is similar pricing to Lyft, Bird and Lime. But Uber is also trying something a bit different by letting riders reserve scooters. How it works is people open the app, see a nearby scooter, pay $1 to reserve it and then walk over to it — that way they can be sure the scooter is there once they get to it.
Uber is also allowing for scooter swaps. So if someone reserves a scooter and then sees one closer, they can swap it out through the app.
Along with rolling out its own scooters, Uber has also partnered with Lime. It announced in July that it was part of a $335 million funding round for the company and planned to offer Lime scooters through its app. A spokeswoman for Uber said offering both Jump and Lime scooters through the app is a plus because it gives riders more options. She also said Uber plans to integrate Lime onto its app by the end of the year.
As for Jump scooters, Uber will offer free rides in Santa Monica through Sunday.
‘Getting from A to B means a lot of different things for city dwellers,’ Dookeran wrote. ‘But for those short trips, we want to make it easier and more fun to get there.’