Tag Archives: lyft

Your Private Driver: Get me to the airport on time

This is a weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft. Look for it every Monday after the live show, right here on dailytechnewsshow.com.

Your flight leaves at 5:30 AM tomorrow morning. You’ve enjoyed using Uber to get all over the city for business meetings, romantic dinners, and even to see “Hamilton” at the theater downtown, but this is different. You never really know when that Uber vehicle is going to show up. Sure, things work out in the end, but you can’t afford to be late for your flight. You’re gonna need this Uber to be on their way to you at 3:30, and there’s no guarantee that one will be nearby or even available at this time. If only there was a way for you to make an appointment or something to have a car at your doorstep right at 3:30.

From a passenger perspective, probably the biggest feature on their ride-share wish list is the ability to pre-book a trip. In fact for years there have been a slew of third-party apps like RideSharp that offer to do just that. Recently Uber and Lyft themselves have offered their own pre-booking features, with Lyft testing in San Francisco and Uber rolling out in Seattle. (Uber is also beta testing the feature in all of their California markets with the exception of San Francisco.) Amusingly, the launch blogs for both services also use the early-morning airport traveler scenario. Seems like a dream come true for them, right?

Well, not quite. All that these services, both official and third-party, do is send a request out to the nearest available driver at the time you specify, which can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 30 days in advance. Unfortunately if there isn’t available driver at that time, the request won’t go through. Functionally there is no difference between a scheduled ride and one that’s requested on-demand, making this feature little more than a placebo for anxious early-morning fliers.

What passengers really want is a way to guarantee that a driver will be waiting for them when they need one, especially during odd hours. In most markets this is rarely an actual issue. Savvy drivers know that there’s a demand for early-morning rides to the airport, and they’re awake and ready to cash in on potentially lucrative airport fares. Los Angeles, for example, will have no more than a ten-minute wait just about anywhere in the region at all hours of the day and night. San Bernardino, by contrast, often may have few or no cars free at around 4 AM. Someone looking for a ride-share pickup there may run into some difficulties.

So, why isn’t there a “real” scheduling feature for Uber or Lyft? In my research I was unable to find a real answer beyond CEO Travis Kalanick’s desire to stick to being an on-demand service. There could be a need to keep the company from running into laws regulating taxi services. There could simply be the logistical issues of ensuring driver availability; it’s not like someone from Uber HQ can just call and wake a driver up at 3 AM to take a request because no one else is available. Or it could be that the company is confident enough that they don’t really need to do anything other than say they’re doing something.

For those of you who really need a ride with guaranteed availability though, Uber and Lyft are not the services you want to rely on. Try going old-school with *gasp* a taxicab, or try a private car service that provides airport rides. No, they won’t be as cheap as UberX, but you’re paying for reliability. That’s worth a premium, isn’t it?

Sekani Wright is an experienced Uber driver working in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. If you have any questions you would like answered for this column, you can contact him at djsekani at gmail dot com, or on twitter and reddit at the username djsekani. Have a safe trip!

Your Private Driver: Lost and Found

(This is a weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft. Look for it every Monday after the live show, right here on dailytechnewsshow.com.)

A week ago, the unthinkable happened: my wife, carrying the only set of keys between us, left them in the back seat of an Uber. We discovered this only after we arrived at our apartment several hours later and weren’t able to open the door. While my wife wiped sweat from her brow and tried to find an inexpensive locksmith, I went through the dicey process of attempting to find out where her keys were.

One of the most frequent questions I see asked on Uber-related message boards and on social media is what to do about lost items left in the back of an Uber or Lyft. Unlike taxis or other forms of public transit, there isn’t a home office that you can go to at the end of the day to see if anyone has turned anything in. Your only recourse is to contact the driver directly and see if they have your lost item and are willing to return it.

To contact your driver, you can either report a lost item using the app or (in the likely case that you’ve lost your phone) via the ride-share company’s website.

Second step is to hope your driver actually responds. An on-duty driver probably isn’t going to get back to you right away no matter how much you want them to, since they’re dealing with other passengers, so you might want to wait until later. Even then, for whatever reason, be it dishonesty, laziness, or something else, a good percentage of drivers will just ignore attempts to contact them. (Our Uber driver never got back in touch with us about my wife’s keys.) Unfortunately if this happens your odds of getting your lost item back are slim to none. Don’t expect the companies to be much help in this matter, either. Unless you have solid proof that a driver has possession of something you lost (and let’s be real, you don’t) and are willing to get the police involved, your recovery efforts have hit an impasse.

But let’s be positive and say that your driver has found your missing item and is willing to talk to you. Arrange a time and place to meet up. Most people will want the driver to simply meet them where they live or work, which is fine. You should also mention that you’re willing to compensate the driver for his or her time and effort. This isn’t a bribe, as some people have called it, but a recognition that driving twenty miles out of your way costs money. What, you didn’t think your Uber driver lived around the corner from you, did you? I’ve had to deal with three missing cell phones, and two of them required a thirty-minute drive one-way to return. The third one would have needed a two-hour drive, so my passenger and I mutually decided to mail it back to her. Yes, mailing lost items is also an option, but you should be willing to pay for it yourself (Lyft will actually assist with shipping costs). 

Ultimately, the best advice I can give about lost items is don’t lose them. Check your seats before jumping out of the car, and make sure that the contents of your pockets are secure. It can save you a lot of time, headaches, and money. Seriously, do you know how much it costs to call a locksmith on a Sunday?

 

Sekani Wright is an experienced Uber driver working in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. If you have any questions you would like answered for this column, you can contact him at djsekani at gmail dot com, or on twitter and reddit at the username djsekani. Have a safe trip!

Your Private Driver: Picking Up the Kids

(This is the second entry of a new weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft. Look for it every Monday after the live show, right here on dailytechnewsshow.com.)

For busy parents, Uber has become an essential part of their daily routine. The logistics of maintaining a career while making sure that one’s children get from school to ballet or soccer practice and home again are migraine-inducing. That’s to say nothing of teenagers without licenses or cars who desire some measure of independence. I have on multiple occasions been tasked with shuttling teenagers to and from school, to dances, or just to hang out with their friends.

There’s just one small problem: both Uber (section 3 here) and Lyft prohibit unaccompanied minors from riding in their vehicles. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know this. Most drivers are unaware, and so are most passengers. I only discovered the rule while doing research for this article, and I’ve been a driver for almost three years! The no-minors rule is ignored by some knowledgeable drivers and passengers anyway; it’s not enforced by anyone at the corporate level, and probably exists just as a legal cover-your-ass policy in case an unthinkable situation occurs.

Well, if you’re now unsure what to do with that Uber Family Profile feature, there may be other alternatives in your area for getting the kids from place to place. So-called “Uber for kids” services like the now-defunct Shuddle are filling the gap by advertising safety first. Their drivers go through stricter background checks, and in some cases are female only. The downside is that they’re more expensive and less widely available.

  • Zum – San Francisco Bay Area
  • Kango – San Francisco Bay Area
  • Pogo – Seattle (this is more of a carpool service than an on-demand one though)
  • HopSkipDrive – Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland CA

Yeah, I know, it seems like we’re hogging all the fun on the west coast. Hopefully these services will become popular enough to expand in the near future. For now though, it seems that Uber and Lyft are content to look the other way as long as there’s not an executive being interviewed.

What about the babies?

Another, larger difficulty for parents is using ride share with babies. Uber does offer an option to choose a vehicle with a car seat, but only if your child is 12 months or older (front-facing car seat age) and you happen to live in New York City, Washington DC, or Philadelphia. Lyft has no car seat options at all, and I’m unaware of any ride-share startup that offers car seats, not even the ones mentioned above.

If your baby needs to travel with you, you’ll have to bring and install your own car seat. The driver will wait while you do this, just make sure they’re able to pull over in a safe location (you should do this anyway as a matter of course). Drivers can’t hold up traffic while you’re strapping the baby in.

If you don’t have a car seat… well, you’ll need to hope you get a driver that doesn’t mind breaking the law on your behalf. Most Uber and Lyft drivers will refuse to take you if you insist on carrying a baby in your arms instead of properly secured, even for a short trip. The risk of legal liability is too great, for one. For two, I doubt any human being trying to make an honest living wants to be responsible for an infant getting hurt in an accident. Neither does any parent.

 

Sekani Wright is an experienced Uber driver working in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. If you have any questions you would like answered for this column, you can contact him at djsekani at gmail dot com, or on twitter and reddit at the username djsekani. Have a safe trip!

Your Private Driver: Safety First

(This is the first of a new weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft. Look for it every Monday after the live show, right here on dailytechnewsshow.com.)

 

Passenger safety is definitely a hot topic in the world of ride-sharing. Hardly a week goes by without some local paper printing another incident of an Uber driver robbing or assaulting an unsuspecting victim who just wanted to get home from a party, and more and more local governments are hotly debating whether or not the company’s background checks are doing enough. In actuality your driver is probably more afraid of you–crimes committed by Uber drivers may be slightly over-reported, but assaults of those drivers by intoxicated or irate passengers are far more common and almost completely ignored by the media. Still, that knowledge may not make you feel any safer if you do end up with one of the bad apples, so here’s some advice to greatly increase your odds of not having one of those horrible experiences.

 

The key thing to know is that ride-share drivers are far more likely to do something immoral or illegal when they’re “off the clock” and the Uber/Lyft apps aren’t tracking their every move. Your job is to make sure you’re on a sanctioned trip at all times.

 

First of all, make sure you’re in the right car. This will help you avoid fake Uber vehicles that will just take you for a ride… and not the kind you were expecting. The app will give you the name and photo of your driver, the color and model of their vehicle, and the license plate number of their car. Check all of these things before climbing in. You may also want to confirm the driver’s name. A simple “Hi, are you Sekani?” will not only make sure you’re in the right car, but has the added bonus of making the driver feel safer since he or she now knows that they have the right passenger as well. (Oh, unless it’s actually me picking you up, substitute your driver’s name for mine.) In case you’re calling a ride for a friend, make sure your friend has all of this information so they don’t accidentally jump into the wrong vehicle either.

 

Secondly, don’t accept any rides off the app for cash. Not only is this technically illegal in most markets, but it removes the Big Brother layer of security that keeps track of everything. Every trip you take should be arranged through the app, there should never be a reason to exchange cash unless you’re leaving a tip. Also be wary of offers to end the trip early to save a few dollars. You can dispute fares later if you think you’ve been overcharged, but you do not want to be in a stranger’s car while the app is not running.

 

Finally, use the buddy system. Don’t let your intoxicated friends ride home alone, go with them and split the cost of the ride later. It’s much harder to be taken advantage of when there’s more than one of you.

 

Rideshare services are still a convenient, inexpensive, and generally safe way to get around a city from one place to another. Just a little bit of due diligence can help ensure that your next trip is all of the above.

 

Sekani Wright is an experienced Uber driver working in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. If you have any questions you would like answered for this column, you can contact him at djsekani at gmail dot com, or on twitter and reddit at the username djsekani. Have a safe trip!