Chris Lin is planning to meet 10,000 strangers this year through Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar.
When Lin moved to Oakland, California, three months ago, the self-proclaimed foodie decided to start driving for Uber part-time to figure out where all the best restaurants and bars were in the city.
Since then, Lin, a consultant who works from home, has started driving for Lyft and Sidecar too. His goal is to drive and meet 10,000 different people, and to write a book about the experiences that he and other drivers and passengers have using those services. He’s using Kickstarter to crowdfund the costs of self-publishing the book, which he anticipates will be done early next year. He also has a blog where he documents his rides.
Soon after he started, Lin realised he was picking people up who didn’t necessarily want to just get from point A to point B. “Once I started picking up some strange passengers — which was almost immediately — I was like ‘wow, this is cool.’ I’ve had 20 people to get into my car just to talk, and the majority of them were Lyft passengers,” he told Business Insider. “They just had a bad day. One girl was like, ‘I’ll give you $US30 just to listen to me for 20 minutes.'”
“I always wondered what it’s like to be a ride-share or taxi driver, so I decided to embark on a delightful journey to find out what it’s really like,” he says on his Kickstarter project page. “My book will highlight my strangest, most-exciting, and most interesting experiences. I’m also going to go over the economics, the different companies, ride-sharing in general, and the incredible people I pick up along the way.”
Kickstarter contacted Lin “almost immediately, maybe on my project’s third day, and they said ‘wow, your project is really cool — it’s a staff pick,'” he recalls. Lin says there’s no formula for how Kickstarter selects its staff picks; they’re just the 250 coolest projects on Kickstarter, according to the people who work there. Kickstarter promotes its staff picks, giving them higher visibility, particularly as projects near their end dates.
Lin, 30, is about three months into his year-long project and about 1,000 rides into his 10,000 ride goal. When the book’s all said and done, it will consist of several parts. The first section will be 100 of Lin’s craziest stories about passengers he’s picked up (he says he plans to name the passengers after the people who donate to his project).
Lin is hoping his book can provide a “neutral account” about people’s experiences as a driver or passenger for three of the biggest names in ride-hailing startups. “I’m just going to write what it’s actually like,” he told Business Insider.
He adds that 98% of his rides are very normal, but that his book will focus on the more interesting 2% of rides.
He’s also crowdsourcing stories from other drivers and passengers for two other sections in the book. A final section will include Lin’s overview of driving for all three companies — Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar — as well as analysis and infographics comparing his experiences with all three companies.
“I’m going to look at the health, like, am I going to have health issues from sitting in a car that long? How do I plan my day? What do the actual finances look like? What is my car’s depreciation?” he told Business Insider. “I worked for Toyota in the past so I think I can calculate the exact vehicle costs so I’m going to look at the whole enchilada.”
So far, Lin says he likes driving for Lyft the best because they allow tipping in the app. “That’s really the main thing. If you do a really good job on Uber, there’s still no option to tip,” he explained to Business Insider. “I think that’s counterintuitive. With Lyft you have an optional tip, and I like that passengers sit in the front. I’m more prone to offer them a customised experience, like offering a mint or candy.”
Lin says Sidecar is good to drive for because it’s unlike Uber and Lyft, which he says that, from a driver’s perspective, are essentially the same thing. “With Sidecar you can actually negotiate the price. Its app is great because you can decline a passenger. It gives drivers as much power as passengers. But I don’t like that I make significantly less money with Sidecar than with Uber and Lyft.”
Lin, who says he’s making about $US30 an hour so far as a part-time driver, also says there’s a huge difference in customers between the different apps. “A lot more business people use Uber. I’ve had three people throw up, all of them Uber. It’s just the different clientele. I like Lyft people better, and they’re also the weirdest.” Lin drives a 2008 Prius, and plans to upgrade to a 2015 Prius at the end of January.
“I’ve always wanted to write a book, but never had a good topic. It’s nice for me to get out of the house, and I like driving, so it was a great way for me to basically get paid to do research,” he told Business Insider. “My fascination with life has a lot to do with people. I think it’d be interesting to talk to 10,000 people.
“I don’t have to do anything except talk to 10,000 people and guaranteed, I’m going to have a hundred good stories. For me it’s just an experiment with meeting new people.”