Uber’s latest experiment is an on-demand moving service

In the ongoing march to its outsized IPO, Uber is trying out yet another delivery product. But this time, instead of bringing you packages or food, the company wants to help you move.

UberCargo, which is being tested in Hong Kong right now, connects people with cargo vans that can help move bigger items, like mattresses and “large pets.” It can also be used like a taxi service for people traveling with big gear, such as surfers or bands. It’s not clear from Uber’s post why it picked Hong Kong as its testing ground, or when the option might roll out to other locations (I’ve reached out to the company for clarification and will update this when I hear back).

The fee will depend on both time and distance and loading time will be included. In Hong Kong, the base fare will be US$2.58 ($20 Hong Kong dollars), with additional per minute and per mile costs. Check out the breakdown here. You can ask the driver for help with that part, although their assistance doesn’t sound guaranteed from Uber’s blog post.

This isn’t the first of Uber’s delivery experiments. Part of the reason it has a $40 billion valuation is because it plans to transform urban logistics; it won’t be content with just changing the nature of the taxi industry. It’s testing couriers in New York City for letters and smaller packages, drivers in Los Angeles for food delivery, and corner store delivery in Washington D.C.

But Uber-for-moving may be the most helpful product yet. It opens up a ton of opportunities for the carless: Lugging stuff home from Ikea, purchasing items off Craigslist, traveling with hefty equipment. Farewell, expensive moving services and unwieldy U-hauls — you can stick with the family with far more stuff than the average single city-dweller. And good luck to the many on-demand moving apps that have formed in recent months. With Uber as a competitor, it will be a tough fight.

UberCargo could be the most useful thing for the carless urban dweller since … well … Uber itself.

Assuming its vans aren’t too creepy, of course. Twitter, for its part, has wasted no time in imagining the dystopian future of UberCargo:

How to get around on New Year’s and maybe avoid surge pricing

As I noted in Gigaom’s 2014 roundup, this has been the year of the Uber. The company has expanded across the globe and convinced investors far and wide to chuck billions of dollars behind it.

Fittingly, 2014 also heralded Uber’s year of disillusionment. As its reach and power grew, all of a sudden people started worrying about Uber, the company: Its culture, its operational systems, its values. Some decided to stop using Uber to protest  its treatment of drivers, its hypothetical threats against journalists, and its flouting of regulations. Others just got pissed about surge pricing.

But there’s a fast approaching day of year where such high-minded moral decisions will be confronted by tough practical problems: New Year’s Eve. If there’s any point in the year where your anti-Uber resolution might crumble, it’s as you battle other determined party-goers on December 31st.

But have hope. Uber may be the oldest, biggest, and most powerful next-generation transportation networking company, but it’s certainly not the only one.

Uber-for-taxis

Yellow taxi sign at night1) Flywheel: Transportation’s best kept secret. It’s an app that works exactly the same as Uber, allowing you to see how far away the closest car is, request it through the app, and watch it creep ever closer to you. Flywheel has partnered with a myriad of cab companies in different cities, so its supply is almost as plentiful as Uber. The demand for the service, however, is far less since many people don’t know about it or haven’t gotten in the habit of using it. Best part: No surge pricing. In San Francisco, it’s actually offering a $10 flat fare for New Years. Cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle

2) Curb: Another taxi app like Flywheel, but with less taxi companies on it in the Bay Area. It’s in far more places in the US than Flywheel though, so if you’re not an SF resident it could be your saving grace. Cities: 60 cities across America, from Orlando, Florida to Tucson, Arizona.

Car parking apps

3) ZIRX: This is a car parking app. Before you freak out at the idea of paying exorbitant New Years parking garage fees, or having to stay sober, hear me out. ZIRX charges $5 an hour and maxes out at $15. Just like with the Uber app, you drop a pin to tell the ZIRX attendant where to pick up your car, so if you want to hop out right in front of your venue in the middle of Union Square, they’ll be there. When you’re ready to go home you can tell them to meet you anywhere, so if you’ve party hopped over to the Marina, no problem and no extra cost to get your car dropped off there. Here’s the real kicker: If you want to get your drink on and can’t drive home? ZIRX only charges $15 for overnight parking. Cities: San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles.

4) Luxe: It’s very similar to ZIRX and same pricing, but Luxe doesn’t yet do overnight parking, meaning you’ll either need to stay sober or cough up the $50 overnight parking fee. On the upside, Luxe is the tech industry favorite, beloved by both Wall Street Journal and New York Times reporters, so you’re likely to have a good experience. Cities: San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Uber’s archrivals

A Post-Taxi Population Opts For Ride-sharing

5) Sidecar: The obvious alternatives to Uber are, of course, its arch rivals. I’m in Camp Sidecar, if only because there’s no surge pricing — drivers set their own rates and you can pick from the list. That helps mitigate surge pricing hangover, although if the drivers are smart they’ll probably be bumping up their fare that night. Sidecar, however, has far less cars than Uber or Lyft so it can be hard to nab one when it’s busy. Cities: 10 cities in the States, mostly big urban areas like Boston and Charlotte, North Carolina.

6) Lyft: Lyft is another option, one that’s nearly as reliable as Uber without quite as many ethical problems. But look out for “prime time tips,” Lyft’s version of surge pricing. Cities: Too many to count, but it’s worth noting New York City is in it (unlike most of the other apps on this list). Check here.

The old school choice

7) Public transit: It may not be hip, but on New Years it’s bound to be cheap and reliable. In a lot of cities around the world, public transportation agencies are running transit for free, extending their regular hours, or adding more units to carry people. For the SF goers, BART is running until 3 am on New Years. Since most people in their heels and fancy clothes don’t even think to tap public transit, in some places the buses and subways may well be both free and empty.

Vid-Biz: Move, iTunes, Unhappiness

Move Networks Partners with Permission TV; adaptive streaming company hooks up with online video platform provider to resell integrated services to smaller media companies. (Broadcasting & Cable)
ITunes Numbers Still Tiny for NBC; TV by the Numbers says at most, iTunes downloads are less than one percent of viewing if you add them to the TV viewing numbers. (TV by the Numbers)
Unhappy People Watch More TV; new study says that people who are “not happy” watch 30 percent more TV hours per day than their “very happy” counterparts. (Reuters)
Neuros Reveals Next-Gen Box; unlike other PC-based media extenders, Neuros gets web video to your TV via the cloud. (Zatz Not Funny)
Heroes Launches Friend or Foe Online; extends the ongoing NBC saga onto the web to let fans interact more deeply with the show. (emailed release)
Global Market for Set-Top Boxes to Peak in 2012; market will grow for the next few years, topping out at 110 million shipments, decline after that due in part to transition to all-digital broadcasting. (ABI Research)
Pixsy Adds 5 Video Syndication Partners; private-label video search service to be used by eZanga, GenieKnows.com, IceRocket, EgoTVOnline and GossipGirls. (emailed release)