Car Hacks (Vlog post #8): Foods Gold

They say, when you ask a silly question expect a silly answer. But sometimes when you ask a perfectly reasonable question you get two answers, one you can’t really make a video about and the other, well, watch and see…

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Rideshare (TNC) Showdown Uber vs Lyft

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by A.R. Bunch

A good question that, surprisingly, doesn’t get a lot of attention is, just which is better to drive for, Uber or Lyft. I have two years’ experience driving for Uber but haven’t actually driven for Lyft although I’ve tried to sign up for them. More on that later. This article in Insider Envy provides a more neutral look at the question and I’ll recap their findings here then provide my own experience.

Recap of Insider Envy article:

Sign up Bonus Lyft wins (Uber now varies market to market but not the $500 they used to offer)
Tipping Lyft edges out because they’ve been doing it longer
Earning Potential Uber keeps you busier and has more rider options (x, xl, SUV, etc.) which can mean you’d earn more, but in my experience it depends.
Public Image Lyft presents as Happy Hippy (which they aren’t) and Uber comes off like the evil empire.
Facts/Figures Lyft wins both driver satisfaction & hourly earnings (according to 2017 survey)

My Experience: Uber

I don’t think Uber deserves every ounce of its bad reputation. There’s a lot they could have done better, a lot of improvements they’ve made, and a lot more room to improve. However, Uber has a mechanism for improving how they operate and is becoming aware of their tragic flaw.

Uber’s tragic flaw, in my opinion, is a hyper-focus on their goals, which were to grow worldwide by using technology to exploit a void in transportation market they thought they alone saw, before anyone else saw it, and use that as a springboard to dominate autonomous driving vehicles from the birth of that market. To accomplish that goal they put different departments in charge of rider experience and driver experience and promised both the moon. Whenever there is a conflict between the needs of the rider and the needs of the driver, Uber chooses the rider. They didn’t seem to spend any time on contemplating corporate culture, brand perception, or win/win solutions. They knew they’d make enemies in every city they went to so they put on their thickest skin and took a damn-them-all-to-hell attitude to everyone’s problems. It served they well, ultimately.

Two Sides to Every Battle:

To be fair, the cities they sparred with weren’t lily white in their efforts to keep Uber out. They were often protecting a local taxi cartel who’d operated without competition for decades, or even their own mass transit systems that ran so inefficiently that people would pay twice the price to rideshare just to get where they needed to go in a timely manner. But the cities came out looking like they were looking out for their citizens’ safety when in fact they were delaying inevitable technology advancements that actually pull drunk drivers off the road, making it safer.

Since Uber was focused on winning they treated all press like good press and marched like Sherman to the Sea across America and the world. In my opinion, they saw themselves as resilient, while the public saw them uncaring. In the past not caring about something was often appropriate—like minding your own business. In today’s political climate, not caring is the darkest of evils.

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Mistakes vs Sins

Uber has heard the clarion call, however. Not just the CEO stepping down, etc. which we’ve covered (internal link), but recently they’ve been sewed by google’s Waymo over stolen secrets. While the lawsuit is not resolved, Alphabet has already awarded Lyft $500 million in venture capital which has to be connected to the suit.

In my opinion, Uber is a young company despite its size and making typical young company mistakes. They only become a problem if they don’t do anything about them, and they’re already working on them.

My Experience: Lyft

Lyft on the other hand. I’ve not had great experiences with. Nothing tragic and that’s probably telling. I tried to sign up with Lyft soon after I started driving for Uber. The app hung up and when I went to the local Lyft Hub they said I’d need an appointment. I couldn’t get an appointment because the app hung up before I got that far. I had a similar issue while on-boarding for Uber and when I dropped into the local green light hub they fixed it. I’ve gone in for several issues, as I said they aren’t perfect, and each time I’ve had a great experience. They know they have bugs and they created a way to address them. Lyft seemed surprised that something didn’t work and not interested in doing anything about it. Now, that’s just one person’s experience and may not be typical.

 

 

I did try to sign up again. It took a while to break through the previous hang up, but I finally got to go into the hub again and they treated me well. However, I had a hang up with my insurance card. I co-own my vehicle and the insurance card only listed the other driver. It took me three weeks to get my insurance company to mail me a card with my name on it and by then I’d decided to drive for Roadie, a package delivery company instead of adding another rideshare like Lyft.

Earnings:

My reason for giving up on Lyft is based on two factors around the topic of earnings. When I turn the Uber app on I don’t usually have a lot of downtime. I talk with a large number of other TNC drivers. Many who driver for both, and repeatedly I get the same comment. “I earn more per trip with Lyft, but they account for less than a third of all my rides. So my weekly earnings are bigger from Uber.”

Now, most of my contact is in the Portland, OR, market. I’m told that in Vegas everything is Lyft. I’m betting that Lyft does have a better toehold in some markets. It’s just not possible for Uber to dominate all the cities worldwide they’re trying to focus on. The recent hit to their reputation will probably shove them out of some cities, like London, and even if the city government doesn’t step in formally, it wouldn’t take too much for a local taxi company to launch their own app and keep the big players out.

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So at the end of the day, it’s pretty much impossible for me to recommend one rideshare giant over the other. Fortunately, you can easily audition them both for yourself. You’re going to need a lot of the same paperwork for either one so you may as well higher on for both at the same time. It’ll make for a busy week, but I’ve you’ve just lost you’ve got the time I’d race them against each other to see who starts you faster. Then I’d drive them each for a week and see who makes you more money and who treats you better. Then do us a big favor and respond to this article to share your experience.

Uber Reputation Update

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By A. Bunch

A lot going on at Uber again. Most of it centers on their reputation. As someone who’s followed Uber closely since they entered the Portland, OR market (about Fall 2014), I have viewed how they do business for better or worse. If we digest some of their recent coverage you’d think they are second only to Monsanto when it comes to evil reputation, but there are always two sides to the story. So let’s take a quick, neutral look at the most recent developments.

Uber picked their new CEO recently and the response was stern caution. David Martin, for example, asked the question in a recent article titled, “How can Dara Khosrowshahi repair the Uber brand? Turn inward and listen.

The article recommends that Khosrowshahi start immediately to change the corporate culture of Uber from making money by ruthless innovation to make transportation a better thing.

In a recent survey of consumer attitudes, consultancy cg42 found that since the recent spate of scandals began the proportion of consumers with negative views of the company has jumped from 9% to 27%. A full 26% of Uber’s existing customers said they are looking for an alternative (Lyft, anyone?). Meanwhile, 32% of prospective customers now said they did not want to use Uber, up from 13%.

Uber began trying to repair their brand by using TV ads, starting in the UK. Martin was adamant that it wouldn’t work and he was right. London has now declared Uber not “fit and proper” to do business in their city.  ). To be fair, London has always been uptight when it came to taxis. They require drivers to pass a knowledge of their insane street maps that are only slightly harder than med school finals and in exchange allow the cab companies to charge a little more than a doctor visit. Well, I guess a lot more since medical is free the UK.

Either way, that’s a blow because the TFL is potentially affecting 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million users According to Uber. It’s likely that the decision is an attempt to get Uber to clean up its act, since the TFL isn’t pulling their ticket, just letting it expire. The decision can be appealed and that’s Uber’s opportunity to show contrition.

How will Uber change their reputation? What Martin suggests Khosrowshahi do to fix the Uber brand crisis is turn inside his own company and talk to employees and drivers. In his earlier article, Martin wrote that your culture is your brand and I tend to agree. You can’t treat your drivers and employees as disposable and expect to start being seen as nice by riders and government officials. Everything is connected now. Your sins are front page gossip and much like that kid in grade school, captain pee pants, I mean Kevin Piedmont, can tell you, a single incident can be hard to live down.

After a few weeks on the job Khosrowshahi its clear that I’m not the only one who reads David Martin. Khosrowshahi has already met with drivers during a recent event of their 180 days of change, now he’s even going to drive for a day or two, that’s according to an email sent out to drivers dated September 22nd. I predict that driving will be an eye opener.

For one thing, their technology doesn’t work as well as they think it does. It’s not awful, and if you’re a programmer or business exec you probably love to see something that’s mostly reliable and bug free, but not unlike a life raft that mostly holds air small problems can bring a lot of stress.

But buggy software isn’t the problem in itself, it’s the attitude behind not getting it fixed. To be fair, Uber routinely updates and improves its technical platform, but they don’t change things that they don’t see are wrong. For example, the law requires businesses to allow service animals. Uber translates this to mean that Uber drivers must allow service animals in their vehicles. Drivers can’t ask if the animal is a service animal or just a pet, well they can ask but not for paperwork or proof. So if a rider wants to lie they can transport any animal in anyone’s car. Uber has half a dozen programs worldwide but not a pet friendly option. If your kid is allergic to cat hair, you simply can’t drive for Uber.

Hey if you don’t have 20/20 vision you can’t fly fighter planes for the air force. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that they can fix it with another ap. They haven’t, presumably because drivers are disposable. Whether that’s their attitude or not that’s how drivers perceive it.

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When all is said and done, it’s likely that Uber can improve how it operates and with those changes it can change its reputation. We’ll all just have to wait and see.

Car Hack Series: Part 1

Welcome to a new series for the Kicker. A lot of our readers are professional drives, including TNC drivers (people who drive for rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft). We’ll do our best to post more information that’s of interest to this segment of our audience from now on. We’re also excited to introduce our first video blog, or Vlog, and with it one of our newest staff contributors, Mike. We hope you take a moment and follow his social media for what he’s up to even when he’s not hacking and reviewing accessories for the Kicker Blog.

Welcome, Mike!

Our staff tried to review a number of car accessories but we kept being distracted by the fact that almost everything used suction cups and almost nothing in a car made after 1989 has much flat space that can support a suction cup. So rather than gripe about it ourselves, we thought you’d be more entertained by watching Mike and the solution he came up with to hacking your own accessory support.

Parts List for this Hack:

  • GPS sand weighted holder
  • Steel strength plumbers epoxy
  • petroleum jelly
  • A selfie stick