Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Fickleness of Ridesharing

Ridesharing services via smartphone apps launched in 2010 with UberCab. Facing pressure in San Francisco from including cab services in their business name without proper permits, Uber acquired and dropped UberCab from its name. Now, we know of Uber as Uber Technologies, Inc, or just trendy Uber. This innovative transportation launch via smartphone apps changed the dynamics of ridesharing. Since Uber, Lyft and Sidecar joined the ridesharing scene in 2012. The fickleness of ridesharing is that this ridesharing industry is constantly changing to remain competitive.

We now have three major ridesharing players (Uber and its rideshare service UberX, Lyft and Sidecar) servicing our ride needs. Riders can request rides through their smartphone apps, which sends out a ride request to the closest drivers within the area. Working as independent contractors, these drivers must have their ride apps enabled and stay online to receive rides. On all three ride platforms mentioned above, drivers have up to 20 seconds to accept these ride requests. Thousands of these ride transactions occur each day, making ridesharing services a seamless process. 

In their pursuit to become global transportation movers of people, the fickleness of these three ridesharing companies is imitating one another. Lyft launched their on-demand ride sharing app in 2012. Their built-in Lyft slide starts a ride. With one swipe of a finger, a Lyft driver can activate a trip. At the ride destination, a Lyft driver ends this trip with another swipe. Uber imitated this swipe feature and now UberX drivers can swipe to start and swipe to end rides. 

Sidecar launched their ride sharing app in 2012. Their clever ride app service instructs their riders to input pickup addresses and ride destinations to calculate a firm trip prices. Therefore, no addresses are exchanged between driver and rider. In the Summer, Uber updated their ride app to include this rider destination. This occurred a few months after integrating in-app navigation, the most useful update in the Uber driver app. Before this in-app navigation update, Uber drivers accepted rides in motion and inputted these pickup addresses into a secondary phone, relying on this synchronized process to provide ridesharing services. 

Uber imitated Sidecar with unveiling a rider destination update to improve driver efficiency and speed up trips. Because of destination requests, a few minutes in every ride request is wasted. Uber drivers must still verify this ride destination is correct, since they may assume they inputted the right destination and this could delay the trip, add time and distance, and thus cost more. Sidecar launched their with this rider destination feature, but now Uber is imitating this feature. 

Next up is Uber imitating Sidecar again with another in-app feature. When Uber want to disconnect or go offline, they press a "Go Offline" virtual button located on the top left corner of this ride app. Sidecar implemented a notification feature within the ride sharing app that asks their drivers whether they want to keep driving or go offline. Uber recently updated their app to imitate this feature. 

Pre-May the Uber app was very basic. It went online, connected rides and ended trips. It was a one-dimensional ride app that required drivers to invest more time and energy into performing ride services. With these recent updates, Uber is catching up to their competition. Whereas Uber already owns a large share of ridership, their ride app is still lacking in features and performance. The Uber driver app crashes often, requires updates, doesn't close in poor cell areas, is unresponsive, can't end rides at times, fails to start rides on occasions, pin drops are miles off and no images of clients are available to track them. For the most part, Uber drivers lack access to change app settings. 

Lyft and Sidecar give their drivers access to filters. They can set these filters to pick and choose the rides they want to take and the rides they want to filter on and not receive. Uber has a major filter problem where 50 minute and over 1+ hour ride requests arrive. What happens if drivers reject these rides during promotional hourly guarantees? It will lower their acceptance rate and disqualify the driver from this promotion. In the Marina District, San Rafael and Marin County ride requests are kicked back to drivers operating within this area. If a driver doesn't accept this ride, this trip request keeps getting kicked back to them. As a result of this, drivers must accept this ride or risk a lower acceptance rate and/or getting disqualified to make driver promotions. 

Lyft drivers can set filters to reject passengers who donate less. These filters can be set with percentage of donations to block these ride requests out. Drivers won't only see passengers who donate less than 90% of the recommended donation amount. If a passenger regularly donates 80% or less, chances are they will struggle to get a ride. Another potential issue is that drivers screen star ratings, so a 4.5 star passenger may get ignored for ride requests. 

Sidecar employs the best ride filters that are more ethical than Lyft. They allow Sidecar drivers to set radiuses between pickups and destinations. Setting a 1-mile radius at destination will prevent long pickup times. Drivers will only receive ride requests within a mile of their drop-off. Drivers can expand this radius to be considered for all ride requests in their intermediate area. Setting a pickup radius filter can be used to perform carpooling service such as Shared Rides on Sidecar. The primary goal is to improve driving efficiency because longer pickup times and downtime impact ridesharing earnings. Sidecar updated their app to include a Back-to-Back feature where riders can claim a driver while they are driving another rider. Once the trip ends, the driver is already connected with this rider. 

Lyft and Sidecar launched their ride sharing apps with future changes in mind, so their app updates are much more efficient than Uber. Both ridesharing companies (Lyft and Sidecar) allow drivers to press a navigation button and this leads to a preferred GPS app. Uber driver app has a problem with their in-app navigation. This feature is slow to re-route drivers, which delays pickup times. Drivers have no control over routes, making this feature one-dimensional. Unfortunately, drivers encountered navigation issues taking routes that have no outlets. These dead ends may be on top of a hill with many cars blocking them from making a U-turn. As a result of this, drivers must waste additional time trying to get out of this predicament and this increases the likelihood of cancellations. 

Lyft and Sidecar enable drivers to receive tips. However, Uber hasn't integrated this tipping feature into their app design. Drivers are losing hundreds of dollars per month. Taxi drivers have a huge advantage in the tipping department, something that we haven't heard Uber address yet. UberX and UberPool drivers can't receive tips via the Uber app. Clients expressed interest in tipping their drivers, but drivers inform them there is no tipping option available on the app. Unfortunately, drivers don't have any cash to tip. Lyft and Sidecar integrated their ride sharing apps to adopt this tipping feature. If riders/passengers like their driver, they can increase the recommended donation amount. Uber is without a tipping feature to reward hardworking drivers. 

The fickleness of this ever-changing ridesharing movement is that high demand requires ridesharing companies to make routine changes to keep attracting new riders and drivers. Furthermore, ridesharing companies must also retain riders and drivers based on holding promotions, running updates and adding new features. We can expect ridesharing to keep changing, especially since new players will enter the transportation industry. In a sharing economy, the standard approach is to launch new innovation after new innovation. Uber is constantly updating their driver app with new features to improve efficiency. However, these updates and changes may be recycled down and/or reproduced. The fickleness of ridesharing is that sustainability is made possible through streamlining constant changes to increase survivability.  

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