How To Deal With Uber & Lyft’s Black Box Upfront Pricing

You and I don’t know how we are getting paid, let that sink in.

You have been hearing a lot about AI (artificial intelligence) lately, and Chat GPT has been all over the news, it’s amazing.

As a driver, you might wonder how AI affects you and your rideshare gig.  I have been wondering, and what I discovered is rather upsetting.

The bottom line is Uber and Lyft are using AI to determine, on a ride-by-ride basis, how much you and I will get paid. Even worse, you and I probably won’t get paid the same.

In this article, I will share how we are now being paid by a black box (meaning we have no idea what goes in and what comes out), and there is nothing we can do about it.

I will also share some strategies so you can use this information to your advantage.

Uber & Lyft Use to Tell Us Our Rate of Pay

I don’t know exactly when an algorithm started to determine our pay.  Before the pandemic, I could look up my rate of pay for both Uber and Lyft on their website.

During my four years of full-time driving (2016 – 2019), Uber and Lyft paid the same rates.

Ride selection was easy.  I needed rides that were nearby.  The shorter the time and distance for pickup (which I was not being paid for), the more profitable the ride.

Now, in 2023, we are shown an upfront price that incorporates the drive to the pickup and the actual ride with the passenger.

How are those rates calculated?  We will never know, a black box is paying us.

Search For A Rate Card

There are no more rate cards. Lyft will tell you what they pay on the ride, but not the time it takes you to get to the ride.  You can get that information using your Lyft driver app.

Jay's Lyft driver app screen with drive info

Uber won’t tell you anything, I even contacted Uber support, and they made me feel like I was crazy for even asking.

There is no standard rate that we can all drive and earn.

Feelings Of Manipulation

What can you do with this information?  It is not great to hear that you don’t have any control over how you are paid. It makes me feel like a pinball getting whacked around.

It makes me worry that other drivers are getting paid more than me, and I don’t even know what I can do to get paid more.

We must realize we are a pawn in a game called “How can we pay drivers less than yesterday?”

Taking Your Power Back

Your only power is to accept or decline a ride.  You still have that power!

I see a day when Uber and Lyft require drivers to accept whatever rides they are offered. Uber and Lyft can tell us: “And if you don’t like it, then don’t drive!”, fortunately, those days are not here yet.

We still can play the game to our advantage.

Understanding An Algorithm

The algorithm looks for tendencies.  If you are a driver who accepts any ride that is offered to you, then Uber and Lyft will offer you rides that pay just a little bit less each time you stop driving.

I have seen this with my Uber bonuses.  Just last month, I was offered $170 for 50 rides.

Look at my offer for this weekend:

Jay's Uber bonus offer for this weekend

From $170 down to $80. During the past two weekends, I drove exclusively for Lyft.

I expect my Uber bonuses to increase when they realize I am gone. Looking at the algorithm’s behavior, I can make an educated guess that the more selective I am about my rides, the better my ride offerings will be.

Get Selective About Your Rides

To put it succinctly, if you accept all rides, you will get the worst and lowest-paying rides.

If you are selective and only accept rides that pay well, you will continue to get offered better rides.

You must learn to evaluate a ride for profitability. This will empower you so you don’t feel like a pinball in the Uber and Lyft machines.

In my market, I set $30 an hour as my benchmark.  If I see a ride is only paying me $10 an hour for my time, I won’t accept it.

This tells the black box to offer that ride to someone else.  When I see a ride that pays $30 / hour or better, and I accept, that tells the black box to keep sending me those rides.

Key Takeaways

The rules of the game have changed.  While change is challenging, in this case, you can use it to your benefit.

You are a driver with knowledge, and that sets you apart from the great majority of drivers.

You are a selective driver, and the black box will reward you for your diligence, while other drivers are not selective.

They accept everything, good rides, and garbage rides, and the black box will continue to serve garbage rides to the drivers who accept them.

We must do more work now to select each ride, but the payoff may be worth it.  Don’t be a pinball.  Instead, be the pinball wizard!