Rideshare Roundup: Uber’s Plan To Take Over The World

I’m traveling in Ireland right now but today, RSG contributor John Ince takes a look at all of the top rideshare stories from the past week.  Uber’s merchant delivery program could be a game-changer in my opinion and I’m curious to hear if any of my readers are participating (feel free to leave a comment on the article if so).

Uber Is Quietly Testing A Massive Merchant Delivery Program

Sum and Substance:

Uber is planning to launch a merchant delivery program that would allow online shoppers to get same-day delivery of goods through both UberRush couriers and Uber drivers. TechCrunch has obtained training documents for Uber drivers and couriers who are part of the merchant delivery pilot program. Sources say that Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany’s, Cohen’s Fashion Optical and Hugo Boss are all in talks with the Uber Merchant Delivery program, and one source in particular said that there are over 400 different merchants currently in talks (or already testing) with Uber for same-day delivery. 

My Take:  With several billion in the bank, it’s only a matter of time until Uber deploys it’s capital on new ventures like this, potentially opening up new opportunities for drivers and clients.  But it’s hardly a slam dunk.  Remember  WebVan? … I’m sure Louis Borders, former head of Border’s Books does.  WebVan raised $396 million from investors and had a valuation of $4.8 billion at their IPO.  Ten years later,  CNET dubbed Webvan the largest dot-com flop in history, … even a bigger flop than Pets.com.   Today Webvan is owned and operated by Amazon.com, another of Uber’s many competitors in this space.

Self-Driving “Taxibots” Could Eliminate 9 Out of Every 10 Cars

Sum and Substance:

Just as Uber emerged as an alternative to public taxis, automated vehicles could represent the next wave of urban transportation. A new study shows how shared self-driving cars could not only improve city streets but also the cities themselves. Researchers at the Paris-headquartered International Transport Forum found … self-driving robo-rides could eliminate nine out of every ten cars on the road of a mid-sized European city. Next, automated chauffeurs completely eliminate the need for on-street parking, which frees up over 200 soccer fields’ worth of space. And when combined with higher capacity public transportation like buses and trains, TaxiBots use 65 percent fewer vehicles during rush hour than normal cars.

My Take: I’m all for it … bring it on … Oh … wait … does that mean I no longer have  a job?

Lyft Hires Facebook, Nike Executives in Push to Challenge Uber

Sum and Substance:

Lyft Inc. hired two vice presidents with experience at consumer giants Facebook Inc. and Nike Inc., doubling the ride-sharing startup’s executive team in six months as it mounts a challenge to Uber Technologies Inc. Brandon McCormick will join Lyft in mid-May to oversee corporate and consumer public relations. He worked at Facebook for six years, most recently leading communications for WhatsApp after the social network acquired the messaging application. Lisel Welden joined Lyft as vice president of brand marketing after working at Nike Inc. for more than a decade.  The new heads of communications and brand strategy will need to position Lyft, whose slogan is “Your friend with a car,” as a community-oriented alternative to better-funded competitor Uber, which has a more corporate image. McCormick and Welden will report to Lyft Chief Marketing Officer Kira Wampler, who joined the San Francisco-based startup in December 2014.

My Take:  Consumer trust is at the core of business models of Lyft and Uber.  Thus, public relations and brand marketing are absolutely essential to their strategy.  It was just a matter of time until they started using some of that recent $500 million +  investment round to raid the executive ranks of other successful brands.

Uber CPO: Don’t Just Talk to Strangers, Split An Uber

Sum and Substance:

uberPOOL. Like Uber, users can open up their app to find a ride, but uberPOOL allows those users to split their rides with others – strangers included – for a cheaper fare. How successful has it been? And how safe?  Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson speaks with Uber chief product officer Jeff Holden about the latest project.

My Take:  Uber and Lyft both announced versions of the same idea about the same time, but since then Lyft has been pushing their Lyftline much more aggressively.  Lyft promotes it as 1) discounted transport 2) an environmental plus – arguing it takes more cars off the road. The rollout has been resisted by some passengers who don’t want to talk to strangers or be inconvenienced by detours.  It’s difficult to gage driver’s reactions.  I recently opted out of Lyft Line because I had three major concerns:

1)  Safety: It forces driver’s attention towards the app, introduces surprise turns (never good) and diverts attention from the road, which is where it should be.

2) Anxiety:  The most problematic aspect of the ride is usually the pickup especially in downtown SF.  Lyftline magnifies this and increases anxiety levels for everyone – including passengers.

3) Detracts from  Passenger Interaction: For me the best part of the driver experience is the conversation with passengers.  With Lyftline and Uberpool, you’re focused more on navigation and less on communication with passenger.

Uber Starts Food Delivery Service, May Expand to Bay Area

Sum and Substance:

Uber has turned its business model to the food delivery world. The rideshare company announced expansion of a service called UberEATS to Chicago and New York on Tuesday. Customers can order meals from a daily changing menu of restaurant entrees and have them delivered in the same way that they would summon a ride. The service was previously tested out in Barcelona and Los Angeles; it was known as UberFRESH in the latter city. It is not currently available in the Bay Area, but an Uber spokesperson did not rule it out for the short term.

My Take:  Related to merchant delivery, food delivery has become a really hot space, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area.  But do we really need this?  What exactly is the problem being solved here?

Planning A Trip? When It’s Cheaper To Take Uber And Lyft Than Rent A Car

Sum and Substance:

In March, I took a 10-day trip to Los Angeles. … Over a decade ago, I lived in LA for a couple years, and the many soul-withering hours I spent in traffic led me to dub my car “my personal jail cell.” … Since then, I’ve rented cars for trips back. But this time, I almost felt I would rather do anything than drive there again .…. So, the bottom line here is that, as far as I can tell, I saved $89 because my friends gave me $83 in free rides. Without that, I basically saved $6. Though that sounds like peanuts, for me, even without the generosity of my friends, the savings in time and headaches were worth it. Honestly, I’d be willing to spend $100 extra — $10 a day — to rideshare than have to drive in LA.

My Take:  Beyond the issue of cost, it’s a huge burden off your shoulders not to have to worry about navigation or parking … but then again … we’re biased … aren’t we?

Your Uber Driver Could Be Packing Heat, and You Wouldn’t Know It – The company lets drivers carry guns. Lyft doesn’t.

Sum and Substance: 

Uber is standing by the driver’s right to carry a weapon while working. Uber spokeswoman Jen Mullin told NBC Chicago that she had “had no comment on the driver’s actions other than to say the company requires all its drivers to abide by local, state, and federal laws pertaining to transporting firearms in vehicles.” (In 2013, Illinois became the last state in the country to pass a concealed carry law.) Mullin later told me in an email that Uber is “not commenting further on this incident in Chicago.” Lyft has a decidedly different policy. A spokeswoman directed me to the company’s Weapons Policy page, which states that the company has a “strict ‘no weapons’ policy.” “This means that if any driver or passenger possesses a weapon in a Lyft vehicle, regardless of whether possession is legal where they are, they will be removed from the platform,”

My Take:  This is a follow up to last weeks major story, but it clarifies Lyft and Uber’s different positions of this controversial subject.