Lyft is going where Uber has not gone before: letting users schedule rides in advance.
But there are still lots of questions to be worked out before this is introduced to actual Lyft passengers.
The experiment will let Lyft employees schedule a ride up to 24 hours in advance. In the app, there will be an option to hail a Lyft now — the way the service is currently used — or schedule one for at least 30 minutes later.
But, the drivers themselves won’t be booked in advanced. Instead, when a rider sets a ride for 1:30 p.m. for example, a normal request for a ride will go out a few minutes before.
It’s a feature that many riders would love to have, but companies like Uber and Lyft have been hesitant to offer advanced-scheduling because of how it would affect surge pricing.
Lyft employs its own version of surge pricing, called Prime Time. Normally, if the demand is too high, riders are charged a multiple if they want to request and drivers are incentivized to come online.
This system could become a problem if you’re trying to book in advance. Lyft wouldn’t say whether it will charge its employees the higher Prime Time price when they request or when they’re picked up. It’s testing multiple scenarios for the best interest for its riders and drivers, a spokesperson said.
Deciding on Prime Time will matter a lot to riders in the future if they request a $20 ride only to find that the Prime Time triples it to $60. The same goes for drivers: They may not be incentivized to pick up a scheduled rider if they’re paying a cheaper price because the surge pricing doesn’t apply.
For now, scheduled rides is just a limited test to the company’s San Francisco employees, but Lyft will have to work out the logistics of ensuring fair pay and pricing before it rolls it out to everyone else.