David Litwak, our commander and chief, was up on stage at the Phocuswright conference last week to talk travel innovation with keynote speaker David Baya - CBO of rideshare giant Lyft.
Lyft, founded in 2012, has grown to 315,000 drivers giving 17 million rides in 240 cities across the US a month. With a $500million investment from GM lining their pockets, Lyft is pushing ahead with developing its self-driving/autonomous vehicle offering - setting a projected date of 2025 for a fully autonomous network.
Baya shared Lyft’s vision of a utopian, urban future where cities are “built around people, not around cars”. He identified that at this time “14% of city space is taken up by parking lots”, space that could be reallocated to other development opportunities if dependency on car ownership were reduced.
Q&A time and ‘our’ David was first out the blocks...
David Litwak: Do you think of yourselves as part of a wider transport ecosystem? Or do you see yourselves taking over everything?
Baya was quick to assert that Lyft was a part of a whole, saying “we definitely see ourselves as part of a wider transit ecosystem”. Good news for Healy, sat next to him and other providers that a Lyft dominated future would/could sweep aside. “We have a deep respect for the trains and electrified vehicles and really see ourselves contributing to that ecosystem to create a system of mobility that’s taking cars off the road”.
Bobby Healy: How can you (Lyft) prevent yourselves from being ‘disrupted’?
A tough question from CarTrawler CTO, Healy. “We put people first” Baya explains before going on to emphasise the work Lyft puts into creating a great user experience that will set them apart from future competition; “At the forefront of everything we do is creating an experience and we think the brand experience can be a real differentiator.”
David Litwak: Airlines are looking for customer loyalty and revenue. How can rideshare companies add value to airlines beyond the initial download?
David’s question relates Lyft paying per download, which isn’t of huge interest to airlines and OTAs looking to build customer loyalty. Baya’s bullish on the need for the industry to collaborate and called on the room to “roll up our sleeves together” to design programmes that cater to the needs to partners. Baya goes on to say “it’s going to take a lot more creativity to design programmes that work for both parties” but that this may not be something transactional - the focus should be on “adding value to the customer.”
Baya goes on to challenge the view of ‘customer ownership’, suggesting “it’s a really dated model and we have to do better than that.” This led to a strong response from David and Healy, pointing to the ETA problem and begged the question, if you don’t care who owns the interaction, why not partner with aggregators like Mozio?
Baya responded by once again pointing to the user experience Lyft offers as a differentiator and throwing down the gauntlet to other solutions to “create a superior user” that they’ll be rewarded for.
What are the major challenges for autonomous vehicles between ethics, technology and regulation?
A strong question from the floor alluding to the timeline that Lyft is working towards that would see a fully autonomous network in place by 2025. Baya suggests, “the most challenging part is going to be around the attitudinal shift” emphasising the role “car culture” has had on shaping society. He goes on to point to this being more of a generational thing, with younger audiences more open to the idea of ‘giving up control’ to a computer.
Whilst Lyft remains focussed on the domestic opportunity in the US, it is leveraging partnerships in other markets. Parthernship is something that Baya sees as being in ”Lyfts DNA” and collaboration had indeed been a big theme of the keynote.
You can see the full presentation and Q&A session here: http://player.piksel.com/v/gx53x8qe