Lyft has been trying to position itself as a socially-conscious, ride-sharing solution long before Uber was rocked by a string of scandals that ultimately culminated in CEO Travis Kalanick’s forced resignation.
But Lyft has the most potential to take on Uber by playing the long game with self-driving cars.
Although Lyft has been slowly chewing away at Uber’s massive market share, it has yet to make a real dent.
Market research firm TXN reported that Lyft’s market share has risen to just under 25%. At the same time, Uber’s hold on the market has fallen from 84% at the beginning of the year to 77% at the end of May, research firm Second Measure reported.
That’s promising news for Lyft, but the ride-hailing company will have to invest heavily in expansion if it wants to catch up. The $US500 million Lyft raised in April will certainly help.
But it’s also not clear the pattern will continue.
Uber began losing market share amid a string of scandalous allegations of sexism and bullying in the workplace. Coupled with Kalanick’s resignation, Uber could rebound if it manages to keep itself out of the spotlight.
There is no doubt that Uber has a lot to contend with before the close of 2017. It must revive its image, fill vacant leadership seats, and get itself back on a path toward an IPO.
Even worse, however, it must disentangle itself from a lawsuit that is slowly turning its autonomous car efforts into a pipe dream.
That could be the real opportunity for Lyft. Lyft becomes the first ride-hailing fleet for self-driving cars, there’s a massive amount of potential.
The battle over robot taxis
Uber launched its self-driving-car program last September to a lot of fanfare.
At the time, Waymo was still a self-driving-car program run by Alphabet, Google’s parent company. It was not a standalone company and had yet to expose its eight years of work to the public.
Meanwhile, Uber was offering Pittsburgh free rides in autonomous Ford Fusions.
The public launch gave Uber’s image a huge boost in the press. No longer was it the company that stripped Carnegie Mellon’s robotics program for a garage project. Now it was serious Tesla contender: a company with operational self-driving cars that also had a massive, pre-existing network to support them.
It was a short-lived storyline.
Waymo, Google’s sister company, filed a lawsuit against Uber in February over claims it stole the intellectual property for lidar, a key sensor that allows self-driving cars to avoid obstacles.
Uber is falling further behind as it battles it out in court. Only a few self-driving platforms will ultimately secure the market, and if Uber is late it could be costly.
For a company burning through cash, self-driving tech is starting to look like a problematic vestige Uber could stand to leave behind.
Meanwhile Lyft is setting itself up to become the first autonomous ride-hailing service.
GM, which invested $US500 million in Lyft last January, will deploy thousands of self-driving Chevy Bolts on the network in 2018. Lyft has also partnered with self-driving startup nuTonomy to launch a pilot in Boston before the end of the year.
Nothing is set in stone for Uber or Lyft. But if Lyft keeps its eyes on the long-term, ride-hailing solution, it could be costly for Uber later on.