Uber and Lyft drivers are often at the whims of the app that dictates what rides are coming in. The idea was to give drivers the ultimate in work flexibility — sign on to work when you want and then wait for the ride requests to pour in.
But on Friday, Lyft is introducing a new way for drivers to book rides that will change how the nascent industry has worked until now.
Now when riders schedule rides in advance, drivers can choose to accept them days or hours beforehand, with full knowledge of where the passenger is going and how long it may take them.
“It gives the drivers to control their schedule and think about what they’re going to do,” said Tali Rapaport, Lyft’s VP of Product. “We can now give certainty.”
While flexibility has long been the battle cry to attract drivers to join platforms like Uber and Lyft, locking drivers into rides in advance doesn’t impinge on their freedom, says Rapaport. Instead, it gives them more of an advantage in choosing pre-booked rides that work with their schedules.
The launch of scheduled rides for drivers is just one of a series of changes for drivers that the company is rolling out on Friday, including a new driver app and “power zones” that give bonuses on every trip.
“Taking a step back, there isn’t going to be one silver bullet to make the experience better for driver,” Rapaport says.
Instead, the combination of features and small iterations are all part of Lyft’s plan to continue to win over drivers and maintain its title of driver’s preferred choice.
The war over drivers
In the ride-hailing battle between Lyft and Uber, Lyft is generally perceived as the more driver-friendly company. But Lyft has trailed Uber in one important area: offering drivers a dedicated app to help them get their jobs done.
“It was over-due a little bit,” said Christian Perea, a ride-sharing expert who writes for The Rideshare Guy. “Lyft was trying to run two of the same things out of one app.”
Lyft had held off on developing its own app because it was easier to maintain one codebase instead of splitting it into two, Rapaport said. Now that Lyft has grown and built out its driver team, the company decided to invest in the standalone app — a move that benefits both passengers and drivers since the apps will take up less storage space on a phone since they’re not sandwiching the features together.
“One of the things we want to continue to make better is the actual experience of driving,” Rapaport said.
Business Insider first spotted the roll-out of the new app in early May, but the company is making the launch official on Friday as it transitions all drivers to the new app.
Both scheduled pickups and a new power zone feature will be part of the new app. The “power zones” will give drivers extra bonuses for accepting rides in a neighbourhood like the Financial District during the afternoon rush hour.
“…It helps us get drivers on the road when passengers really need them,” Rapaport said. “It kind of gives drivers control over what they’re making.”
While each change might seem minor, they’re all part of the war between companies like Uber and Lyft over the limited supply of drivers. Each company tries to ply drivers with different incentives, and adding something like drivers being able to pre-accept rides gives Lyft a different advantage.
“At the very minimum it’s going to have me going out earlier or maybe going home earlier,” Perea said about choosing his rides in advance. “I suspect there will be more drivers looking for scheduled rides than riders will be requesting them.”
Now that the company has its own driver app, Perea also expects more features to come down the road. One thing Lyft drivers want now is more transparency behind fares — a move Uber made earlier this week when it started itemizing receipts.
For Lyft, treating drivers better and listening to their needs is one of the core ways it’s invested in growing its share of the complicated and competitive market.
“I think we have to keep investing in treating drivers better,” Rapaport said. “We know drivers have a choice. We keep making the experience for driving for Lyft great.”