Uber has launched a new revenue stream that it hopes will fill its own coffers as well as that of its drivers.
The partnership will see drivers able to put two-sided internet-connected screens with advertisements on top.
It is a key part of the car company’s drive to operate at a profit.
The start-up announced in the fourth quarter of 2019 earnings that it wanted to be operating at a profit by Q4 in 2020.
The global company has famously never turned a profit and even in April last year warned that due to competition it may never turn one.
Now however the new deal with Adomni, an online platform for digital advertising, may reverse the company’s fortunes.
The network will initially launch in Atlanta, Phoenix and Dallas in the US, with around 1000 vehicles equipped with the screens.
By the end of 2020, Uber hopes to have rolled out the program in Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Uber wants to use its massive data collection to geofence creative content “for the ideal audience” while Adomni said in a release that advertisers would be able to display one ad on the car and a nearby billboard at the same time.
Adweek reported that independent contractors with Uber were previously allowed to install ads from third-party operators but this is the first time Uber has offered a platform of its own.
The displays will be provided by Cargo Systems which currently has an exclusive agreement with Uber to provide in-car commerce offerings like snacks and beauty products.
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For the initial pilot period, drivers will get paid $300 to install the vehicle-topper and an additional $100 each week they drive more than 20 hours with the display.
After April though drivers will be paid based on how many hours they drive.
“After exploring this idea for over a year now, we realised that the timing is perfect to launch this new ad network and we couldn’t ask for a better partner than Adomni,” Brett Baker, lead, Uber OOH, said in a statement.
There is no word yet on if the offer will ever roll out to Australian drivers.
However Uber did just introduce a new PIN feature for its drivers.
The safety feature will give Uber riders the option of receiving a four-digit PIN code to give their drivers before starting a trip.
The extra security layer is aimed at ensuring riders get in the right vehicle and that drivers pick up the right person.
It is also customisable as riders can choose whether to use the PIN feature for every trip or just the night trips between 9pm and 6am.
This feature complements the RideCheck feature which prompts riders and drivers to report if something goes wrong.
When initiated it sends a notification to both parties asking if everything is OK and lets users say its fine or to use the emergency button or report an issue to Uber’s support teams.
“Every trip is on the map, so we know where and when you’re riding and who’s behind the wheel. By using this data and other sensors in drivers’ smartphones, our technology can detect possible crashes or if a trip goes unusually off course,” an Uber statement said.