Get Used to More Shared Rides

Do you dislike shared rides, like Lyft Line or UberPOOL? If so, this week’s round up probably won’t make you happy. Senior RSG contributor John Ince covers changes coming to Lyft’s app, Uber’s new hire, and the perhaps “nicer” future of Uber and Lyft.

Lyft redesigns rider app to encourage shared rides [Techcrunch]

Sum and Substance: Lyft has revamped its rider app in an attempt to help people get where they’re going faster. Instead of first asking for pickup information, the app will now ask where you’re going, which Uber first started asking in 2016. The app is also designed to encourage more shared rides. Oh, and Lyft is now no longer calling its carpool feature Line. Instead, they’re simply shared rides…

To further promote shared rides, Lyft will notify those who opt to ride solo if there’s an available shared ride heading their way that doesn’t include any detours. The ultimate goal, Okpaku said, is to get more people in a smaller number of cars…

Lyft has also done some work with the city of San Francisco to reduce congestion on some of the city’s highly trafficked streets. Near Valencia Street, for example, Lyft has created a couple of pickup and dropoff spots for passengers off to some side streets. Over the last couple of months, Lyft says it has directed over 20,000 pickups to those side streets…. This redesign comes at a time when Lyft is looking into both bike-share and electric scooters. With the design, it’s clear to see how Lyft could easily add new modes of mobility.

My Take:  The redesign of the app, making easier integration with other forms of urban transit, is one of those developments that puts the company at odds with drivers. Lyft is full steam ahead with shared rides, trying to get as many passengers as possible inside the same car.  

Drivers hate it. Drivers hate more pickups.Drivers hate more waiting for passengers. Drivers hate more dealing with the urban labyrinth. The only reason drivers go along with the corporate directives is because of the incentive structure. Bonuses are based on rides completed. Basically Lyft is bribing drivers to get with the program – and losing money sometimes on each ride. 

None of this makes sense financially. It only makes sense in that “vision thing” that John Zimmer and Logan Green are so fond of quoting to reporters.  What I can’t figure out is why Uber and Lyft insist on competing with public transit, when public transit often if not always costs cities/municipalities money.

Will Uber and Lyft Become Different Things? [The Atlantic]

Sum and Substance: Uber’s roots are in the black-car business, while Lyft’s predecessor, Zimride, was a carpooling app. Yet over the last six years, as the two ride-hailing companies have been in direct competition around the nation, Uber and Lyft have essentially served as exact substitutes. Drivers seem to find them interchangeable, too, often suctioning two phones to their windshields—one for Uber, one for Lyft.

Lyft has tried to differentiate itself as the kinder, gentler Uber. But under the newish CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber has become the kinder, gentler Uber. So … where does that leave Lyft?

Today, Lyft announced a new passenger app that represents its vision for the future of urban mobility. Lyft’s VP of design, Katie Dill, who came over from Airbnb late last year, walked me through the new app. “It’s pixels. It’s product design,” Dill said, “but really what it is trying to do is have this major impact on how people behave and how people move through cities.”

From the screenshots I saw, it’s a slicker experience, more like Uber’s app. The company has also vowed to make 50 percent of its trips shared between multiple passengers (up from 35 percent now where their ride-sharing feature exists). And representatives stressed the company’s work with transit agencies—announcing 25 partnerships—and cities…

“From the beginning, analysts have wondered if ride-hailing might be a winner-take-all market. Certainly, there are major network-effect bonuses to having large numbers of drivers and riders in the same city. But even as both companies diversify away from the core business that built them into corporations with multibillion dollar valuations, they are tracking each other closely. Maybe as the venture capitalist Jake Kupperman recently argued, the market is not winner-take-all.

“The higher likelihood,” Kupperman wrote, “is that ride-sharing turns into an airlines-esque market in which there is fierce competition, local winners, and low profits.”…

“Partnerships are going to matter more than ever,” Zimmer said, side-eyeing Uber’s reputation. “And we are the company who has worked well with cities and partners.”Maybe someday, after the dust settles, one of these companies will even make money.

My Take: This article asks the fundamental question in this industry – what, if anything, differentiates Uber from Lyft? Most drivers work both platforms.  Most passengers have both apps on their smartphone and will choose one or the other depending on individual circumstances and preferences. The pricing is essentially the same.  

It’s not until you get down to the fine details and the intangible feel of the service that you become aware of differences – and most of that is a result of PR and branding. As a driver who works for both, there is one overriding consideration – the number of requests I get and how long the pickup is. On that score, Uber wins hands down.  What about you? What are the differences, if any, in your mind?

Uber brings on Facebook product director to lead driver product [Techcrunch]

Sum and Substance: Uber has brought on Daniel Danker to serve as a senior director and head of driver product. Prior to joining Uber, he was a product director at Facebook responsible for video and Facebook Live. “Drivers are the heart of the Uber experience, and Daniel’s passion for our mission and deep product knowledge will ensure we continue to improve and innovate on their behalf,” Uber Head of Product Manik Gupta said in a statement to TechCrunch.

Uber has been without a head of driver product since December, when Aaron Schildkrout left shortly after Uber wrapped up its 180 days of change driver campaign. As head of driver product, Danker will be responsible for planning, strategy and execution. Danker has had a long history in Silicon Valley. Between 2000 and 2010, Danker worked in a couple of roles at Microsoft, where he ended his stint as director of development and operations. He eventually left Microsoft for BBC in 2010 and then made his way to Shazam, where he served as chief product officer for nearly three years…

Under the leadership of CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber has placed a greater emphasis on its drivers. Its commitment to drivers kicked off in June with Uber’s 180 days of change. In that time, Uber added in-app tipping and a number of other features. At the Code Conference last month, Khosrowshahi said despite what former CEO Travis Kalanick said, Uber will never get rid of the driver. …

My Take:  This announcement comes in tandem with the rollout of the new Uber driver app, which from sources appears to be an improvement. Sounds like things are looking up for drivers. Price increase anyone?

Readers, what do you think of this week’s round up?

-John @ RSG