RSG093: Why Lyft COO Jon McNeill is All About The Drivers!

Lyft has always had the reputation for being a more driver-friendly service, but what have they done lately to keep that goodwill from drivers? In this episode, I speak with Lyft’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Jon McNeill about investments the company is making to improve things for drivers and distinguish themselves from the competition. 

If you’d like to read a transcript of this podcast, please click here.


  • Today I’m chatting with Lyft COO Jon McNeill, who as COO focuses on all things related to the driver and passenger experience
  • Lyft drivers really are the main customers for Lyft, so we spend a lot of time talking about what he’s working on for drivers – including driver pay
  • I also took reader questions before this episode, and two main topics rose to the top: driver safety and the future for drivers + autonomous vehicles
  • Don’t forget to leave a review for the RSG podcast on iTunes – you can leave a review here

Interview with Jon McNeill

  • Jon McNeill is a world class leader who brings experience to Lyft (he previously worked for Tesla) as a game changing transportation executive. Jon leads all business operations at Lyft and focuses on the driver and passenger experience
  • First met with Lyft founders while working at Tesla, found a way to combine Lyft + Tesla
  • Gave up car for a month to take Uber and Lyft’s everywhere – talked to drivers and learned there are a lot of improvements that can be made to change the business for drivers
  • Role at Lyft is to help take the founders’ vision and make it reality on the ground by working with drivers and riders

Express Drive Program

  • As an example of one way to improve the driver experience, the Lyft Express Drive program looks at all the ways to improve the driver & passenger experience
  • Charging cords – can lead to more tipping for drivers
  • Vehicle safety (accident avoidance)
  • Newer cars, so less maintenance and downtime for drivers

How Does Lyft Calculate Driver Pay?

  • The price is the price the customer is willing to pay
  • Need to look at more ways to put money in drivers’ pockets: lower costs to drive so that drivers can take home more (electric vehicle (EV) cars for example)
  • Lyft calculates real time estimates of what customers (passengers) are willing to pay – massive amounts of data go into determining these rates, down to the penny
  • Affected by weather, events, etc. and Lyft watches customer response in real time to determine if their pricing forecast was right – usually pretty accurate
  • NY rate card introduced – example of prices going up (pay going up to drivers) but rides dropped by 20% and now drivers aren’t driving as much
  • Passengers determined they were willing to do other things (walk, ride a bike) vs. pay the increased rates

Communicating with Drivers

  • Lawsuit in NY more about regulations vs. driver pay – Lyft is looking to get fairness for passengers and drivers without market distortions like regulation
  • Could do better messaging Lyft’s position to drivers
  • Driver Advisory Councils help

New Lyft Services for Drivers

  • Wanted to address the 3 big categories of spend for drivers: car, fuel, service
  • On the service side, Lyft looking at reducing the cost of service for drivers up to 50% – so drivers would get their cars back in half the time plus at half the cost
  • Cost of fuel – providing a bank account and cash back card on gas (4%) & food, will add more features over time but really wanted to attack fuel costs
  • Express Drive program – expanding the program and adding to the number of hybrid and electric vehicles in the fleet

How Lyft is Distinguishing Itself from Uber

  • Going all in on Driver Advisory Councils, keeping drivers in the feedback loop and making sure Lyft lowers costs for drivers
  • Hubs/driver support centers for drivers to get frontline support
  • Many team leads have given rides for Lyft and many people at the hubs are also drivers, so the people drivers are talking to are familiar with what they’re talking about

Questions from Readers for Jon McNeill

  • Driver safety – in 2018, Lyft brought on Lisa Monaco, the Homeland Security advisor in the Obama administration, to advise on safety
  • Working on screening and tracking on the backend to help keep drivers safe
  • Future for drivers in light of AV development? AV technology is not going to be overnight – have already been working on it for more than a decade and there are still aspects people can’t solve
  • Massive costs associated with AV too – Lyft will be in the (human) driver business for a long time


  • Big thanks to Jon for coming on the podcast and talking about Lyft, driver pay, Lyft programs to help drivers and more
  • Spent a lot of time prepping for this interview and making sure I covered topics drivers are interested in – thanks for your questions as well!
  • Lyft cash back card on gas looks very promising – probably will be signing up for that one myself
  • Let me know what you thought of this interview in the comments below, on Twitter, via email

Show Notes

If you’d like to read a transcript of this podcast, please click here.

-Harry @ RSG