The days of confiscating your tipsy friend's car keys and ushering him to a cab are over.

Uber is debuting across the United States a line of business that allows event hosts or companies to pay en masse for Uber rides, and distribute them to guests for use getting to, and home from, that event. It's called UberEvents.

It's a pretty simple concept: Anyone having a wedding, party, or the like, creates an event through the Uber site or app, and receives ride tickets to distribute to guests. The guest can then use the ticket's code when requesting her Uber to head to--and later from--the gathering. The host is later billed for the rides that are used by guests.

While the launch is November 4, and official news about UberEvents was under press embargo until noon ET, the service itself appears to have been available since September. Late this summer the Uber employee who heads up UberEvents tweeted that the service is a "#GameChanger for dinner parties, weddings, happy hours & more!" During its time in pre-launch beta, UberEvents has been used at weddings and housewarmings, but also by companies flying in job candidates for interviews, so they could arrange their own airport pick-up, at no expense to them, according to an Uber spokesperson.

It's a natural extension for the transit company, which is hailed as the world's highest-valued startup, with a $51 billion valuation after its last venture-capital infusion. In essence, Uber itself has been using this service for more than two years, doling out promo codes to guests for its own city-launch parties, and certain other events. Now, it's simply scaling up the tool that's been so useful internally.

UberEvents also seems to be an attempt to re-class-up Uber's image. The company has taken some publicity hits lately, especially in light of news that Uber has been cutting drivers' pay in certain markets, and not offering benefits to drivers that employees would typically receive. It's not exactly helpful for a company that has pitched itself as "everyone's private driver." Plus, as Uber expends much energy and resources on expanding UberPool and other low-cost services, the brand's image as a "classy ride" may become a little less glossy, and a little more plebeian.

The service seems ideal for corporate events, and could certainly be well-utilized in New York, especially during conferences, Fashion Week, and other big-brand-sponsored events. Urban weddings, too, may be ideal use cases. "Never worry about someone missing the last shuttle or getting stranded at the end of the night," reads Uber's blog post on the new service, written by Max Crowley, who runs Uber's B2B branch, Uber for Business. "Put the power of Uber in your guests' hands."

Published on: Nov 4, 2015