Uber, the taxi app that’s eating the world, has let developers build on top of its infrastructure for the better part of a year now, letting you do things like call a car to take you to the restaurant you just looked up on apps like OpenTable. But actually booking the ride would require you to open the app.
Today, Uber announces the Request API endpoint, which is a very dry way of saying that developers of any app can let you use it to call an Uber — whether or not you even have Uber on your phone. You will still need an Uber account, and you’ll need to to log in to Uber’s web site the first time you use the other app to call a car. But once you’ve made the connection, you’ll be able to use other apps just like you use Uber.
“We are eager to make this endpoint available because we know how satisfying it is to create technology that impacts the physical world. Putting this power in the hands of developers has our imaginations running wild,” writes Uber’s Scott Woolsey Biggart in a blog post.
Biggart suggests a couple of good examples of how this might work: A calendar app could automatically have a car waiting for you after your last meeting. Or you could use a standard text message to call a car if somebody builds a service to let you do that.
The trick is getting third-party developers to use the new feature. Uber is sponsoring a hackathon challenge for developers to build the best use for an app that can call you a cab. Among the prizes is a trip to San Francisco for a chance to have a brainstorming session with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who will probably have lots of ideas for how to turn your idea into even more growth for Uber.
And growth for Uber is definitely the endgame here: It’s just more ways for you to call an Uber. And since competitors like Lyft don’t have anything even close to this, any app developer who wants to be able to let customers call a car has to make it an Uber.
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