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Alphabet considers Lyft investment of about $1B (bloomberg.com)
361 points by coloneltcb on Sept 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 161 comments

It’s interesting to see Lyft doing well here - the news was quite bad for Lyft it seemed just a year ago or so, with Uber dominating headlines and in users’ minds of those inclined to use ride sharing as well as such rumors circulating such as Lyft failing to find a buyer. Fast forward after numerous gaffes on Uber’s side including the former CEO, and there seems to be a lot of good will that has shifted to Lyft. Doesn’t necessarily mean Lyft will thrive, but it looks a lot more promising than a year ago.

The level of differentiation is so small I don't think much of that matters. At the end of the day I care about getting from point A to be point B. Which service I use just depends on which app I feel like opening.

In the US, sure. But if you travel internationally as I do, Lyft isn't even Outside the US yet while Uber is in almost 100 countries. There's no comparison.

This is a big deal for many people. I arrived in Perth, summoned up an Uber, and it arrived in a few minutes, all billed to my regular credit card back home. Amazing really.

I wonder how they manage taxes.

For European, if Uber is registered in Europe and is the service provider, it would be the taxes of the country of the client.

It looks like this is not the case,

"It is also this setup that also allows Uber to pay what their critics say is less than their ‘fair share’ of tax – Uber pays no VAT and, last year, only paid £411,000 in Corporation Tax."


While it does matter for me as well, most people won't care. The number of people who regularly travel abroad and use taxis there (most European tourists revert to public transport when on holiday or get transportation from an organiser) will be low. Uber is popular in London because they're the only one here (apart from Addison Lee which has a different focus). I don't think people are attached to the brand, they just like the price.

I travel overseas a ton and i'll counter -- I may not like the brand (actually I love them!) but it is hard to ignore the convenience. When I go overseas, I dont want to figure out the local app, install the local app, set up the local app, learn to use the local app, etc. I've been to five countries in the past five months and used Uber in every single one. I didnt have to haggle in foreign languages and the receipt came to my email onto a single credit card for easy accounting. There is a HUGE value to that. It may not matter a lot of those not traveling, but the world is huge and lots of people travel, esp those in the cohort that use Uber.

I also traveled domestically and overseas a ton (four years with Accenture on the road constantly) and remember a pre-Uber world. Shudder. While you are right that I can theoretically go with multiple services domestically in the US, I'd still go with a single one to ensure easy accounting, and when dealing with overseas travel, it is a no-brainer.

I regularly find Lyft to be more than twice the price of Uber. That price difference makes quite a difference to me, honestly.

All the prices are artificially kept low as Uber and Lyft seek market share to bankrupt traditional taxi service. I expect within five years you will see dramatically higher costs.

I will say good riddance, and I bet prices will be similar, even lower.

Frankly, I don't get it why so many people in tech are so biased against smaller independent businesses such as taxis and mom-and-pop shops, so that the shareholders have more money (and they already don't know what to do with their money and beg entrepreneurs to take them to beat index funds returns). Like everybody has to be a corporate slave otherwise doesn't have right to exist. It's obvious those smaller/independent companies are the target of Uber/Lyft, sucking life off another class of people that would otherwise have bearable conditions of their existence. This is frankly a highway to hell for everyone.

It might have something to do with taxi drivers specifically since they're not known for being the most honest and decent service providers. Whether it's scams like letting air out of their tires, not starting the meter or taking longer routes or discriminatory practices like avoiding certain neighborhoods and driving by minorities to pick up white people (yes, this is a thing and a friend and I had it happen reliably enough that it became a running joke), the pre-Uber cab situation was pretty bad and there wasn't much riders could do about it. I admit to some schadenfreude at seeing taxi drivers struggle after so many years of putting up with their BS.

OK, probably because I live in Germany where taxis work fine my perspective is different.

But taxi companies have regulatory capture. How are giant VC funded companies dumping service into the market below cost supposed to compete with that?

This whole problem exists not because taxis didn't embrace technology soon enough, but because in 1936 they put a cap on issuing new medallions in NYC. Which meant that since then, irrespective of the economic growth and the number of people, the number of taxi cabs became severely restricted. This created an artificially increased prices for taxies. In the year 2011 a taxi cab medallion was sold for $1 Million in 2011 [1].

Taxi Cab industry is a heavily regulated industry which was screwing only one group of people, i.e. the consumers. This is why there is little love for the cab industry in America. For more economic analysis on this, check out the lecture by Murray Rothbard given in 1989 at NY Polytechnic [2].

1. https://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/2-taxi-medalli...

2. https://mises.org/sites/default/files/Government%20Cartels%2... [Part about taxi cab medallions start from 29:21]

> Frankly, I don't get it why so many people in tech are so biased against smaller independent businesses such as taxis and mom-and-pop shops

As a tech person I'm not against smaller independent businesses. I actually support them as much as I can. However, I also support convenience. Smaller businesses should strive for convenience, and tech businesses should consider supporting and enable those smaller mom-and-pop shops to flourish. Lyft and Uber are, in fact, doing exactly this, by solving a transportation problem for a lot of smaller guys. Like me. I save a lot of personal money because I can get around on-demand and don't need to own a car. (I rent for longer trips, and the amount I spend on Uber+Lyft+Enterprise+Zipcar is much less than the cost of car ownership.)

Taxis are very, very far from your innocent mom-and-pop shop. I'd be quite glad if they die. For the following reasons.

- Taxis regularly rip you off when they drive by meter (I say this from experience). Uber drivers don't. Seeing the car on a map with your destination and route gives me peace of mind.

- Being able to set the destination on your "taxi"'s GPS navigation system using your own phone is amazing. You can just click on addresses in your calendar events and get a car without having to spell out street names for taxi drivers. It also helps a LOT when you are in a foreign country to be able to just click on stuff and physically get there, no questions asked.

- Taxis don't have a carpooling system. As a customer, I want lower fares and lower carbon emissions. In fact I bike most of the time and seldom drive a car because I don't believe in 1 person per car as a sustainable form of transportation. Taxis don't solve that problem. UberPool and Lyft Line are taking a step forward here. It's a step toward Public Transportation 2.0, the way I see it.

- Not all taxi drivers take credit cards. Especially outside the US. Uber solves the payment problem in a lot of parts of the world.

- In about 95% of places where I use Uber/Lyft, taxis don't really run around on a regular basis. You have to find their weird phone numbers, find a phone, and call them. And sometimes they don't show up for 45 minutes. Having a system that tells drivers where people want rides is a lot more fuel- and time-efficient than taxi drivers trolling around looking for business. (Guess why taxis are more expensive!)

- ONE app to get you a car on-demand, in any country, anywhere. How cool is that?

I have multiple personal stories in which cabbies and cab companies (based in San Francisco and Austin, TX) colluded to defraud me out of hundreds and hundreds of dollars. I have told these stories too many times to get any catharsis out of repeating them here — but I am confident, and experience confirms, that similar scenarios would never play out with Lyft or Uber. An individual driver may be a cheat, not for long, and without Lyft/Uber covering for them (unlike Yellow Cab)

I am sure there are regions where taxi companies don’t completely suck. My very limited experiences w/ cabs in the South of France was markedly better than with taxis in Texas and San Francisco, for example.

I am very supportive of small business. And dislike large corporations. And surely believe that large corporations are behind many regulations that makes small business bankrupt. They buy favors and pass laws favoring their stance. Government offers their service with a fee, they buy it. But, taxi business is by large enter to this territory. Entering business is very hard with historical or meaningless reasons. I do believe there will be independent taxi drivers using intelligent services that behaves differently than Uber. That of course may change when autonomous cars take over.

I can't wait to bankrupt my local surly cabbies, and have my transportation controlled by a Californian company who'll be able to dictate prices and sell my data.

I get where you're coming from, but you could say the same thing about software purchased on any app store, your mobile phone and a bunch of other things.

Yes, yes you can.

Not sure where you live but in most big cities you already have the choice between some Californian company, at least one European company and sometimes Chinese (or chinese backed) companies. Someone will get your data but you can choose who that'll be.

Creating an app like uber is cheap enough that competitors will pop up whenever uber feels like making money.

Just curious: why would they be lower [from taxis] if there are no taxis and Uber runs almost a monopoly?

Because if they are too high, the taxis will make a comeback. I think uber understands that the network effect is only so strong. Just look at Facebook and see how it brought out the big guns against a seemingly benign rival: Snapchat.

You might be asked to extract rent but you can't extract too much (just my conjecture, no clue how much is too much)

The network effects are pretty small when you do a single passenger trip. But multi-passenger trips(Uber pool) have quite strong network effects and a lot of room for margin.

> The network effects are pretty small when you do a single passenger trip. But multi-passenger trips(Uber pool) have quite strong network effects and a lot of room for margin.

So I might be the last person to realize this but you're right! If I don't mind being ten or twenty minutes late, then how about taking this a step further with a bus? You enter where you want to go and the closest bus gets rerouted based on where its existing passengers are going (or if you're going somewhere weird it won't trigger the bus but rather a small Toyota Corolla I am not completely opposed to small cars). It doesn't even need to be self-driving. The main thing is there needs to be enough of them (and it would be nice if they had access to bus lanes but the amazing Uber legal time I am sure can figure this one out). This is brilliant because if we can reroute bus traffic based on who is travelling and where (and we know live traffic information thanks to Google and Waze) we can make "public transit" a lot more palatable. I'd argue we can realistically make an "unlimited" rides card that allows you to ride any uber pool anywhere for say $200 a month? I mean if you never have to wait for the bus/taxi for more than twenty minutes, it is surely worth it right?

I guess the point is that there is a lot of room for innovation with uber pool and uber has to continue to innovate to stay ahead. If they do, I don't mind if they take a small portion of the money. We as a society will be better off with fewer cars on the road.

anywhere doesn't actually mean anywhere but anywhere within certain areas. Can't uber pool between brisbane and sydney :)

I agree , it could be a great thing.

The leading startup in making that vision is Via, they just got $200m investment from Mercedes and a partnership, they are deployed in 3 major cities in the us, also starting in Europe via big partnership and working on dual model of both their own service and licensing their software to others, what could enable rapid takeup.

As for prices, recently I read a story comparing ride services, for 4mile trip , Uber costs ~$20, via $6(although via can sometimes get delayed for long, but I think with scale that could greatly improve, and maybe prices a bit).so this may give a scale for the practicality of $200 free pass.

And btw to run such service you need 8 passenger minibuses , which are commercial vehicles driven by commercial drivers, who hate Ubers guts,and probably won't work with Ubers model, and if Uber changes their model and gives preference to these drivers, they could alienate their own drivers.So maybe that's why they don't fully compete.

And one more thing: the other big possible improvement is in vehicle design, to allow multiple people sharing a vehicle more comfort and privacy. But now that Mercedes is in the picture and they said they will optimize vehicles , maybe this will get solved.

> Because if they are too high, the taxis will make a comeback

Uber can change price dynamically while you load your app within seconds. Somehow doubt the whole Taxi industry of Medallion et al can reboot in a matter of seconds (or days or months).

Taxi costs in many areas are driven by high barriers to entry (medallions or tests) and taxi drivers spend a high percentage of their time waiting. The surge pricing system and apps can better match demand and supply so that you should be able to get the same hourly wage for lower costs to the passenger.

The problem currently just is that while Uber could be something like 25% cheaper, they are actually rather 40% cheaper and pay the difference out of their own pocket.

First, Uber will not be a monopoly, second Taxis are over priced already.

What's overpriced to you? Any business where an employee can maybe eek out $13 an hour?

Overpriced is this: I can pay to a pirate taxi service 2-3 times less and he is still fine. For example, Taxi drivers here needs to pay money to medallion owner and prices are determined by their guild and government centrally. There is no competition or any concern of consumer expectations.

He said nothing about what wages the employees make. As a consumer this is not your concern when you think about pricing. I don't care how a company manages it's money. I just care about how much their services cost versus what it's worth to me.

Except it does. A taxi occupies 100% of the attention of a human being as he drives you. How the heck can you not considet his wage when asking for a price drop? If 75% of your price goes to the driver and the driver makes minimum or near minimum wage, where do you propose the cost savings come from?

Lower prices makes no sense. No drivercan live a reasonable life with those prices. And self driving cars won’t be cheaper for a long time

GPS+Smartphones killed any special skills that drivers needed, so Uber/Lyft wages are being driven down to McDonalds levels, because there is no barrier to entry, and the flexibility provided by Lyft/Uber is actually helpful to people who are already working at a part time job that has shitty unpredictable hours.

And if one of these companies goes under, expect wages to fall further because they do not need to compete with the other.

I don’t see how Uber failing would cause wages to fall. Uber is consistently cheaper than competing services.

When Uber leaves a European market taxis generally profit from it.

Is this in the Bay Area? In Austin Lyft is slightly more expensive than Uber, but no more than 10-15% at any given time.

Yes I live in the Bay Area. Last time I took a $9 Uber ride, I checked Lyft and it was $21. This has happened enough times that I check Lyft prices increasingly less frequently.

In San Francisco Lyft is cheaper.

SF center to SFO is like $15-35 for Lyft Line while Uber charges $19-45.

SoMa to Marina is $4.05 for Lyft today and > $5.50 for Uber

Really? I regularly get $30-40 from downtown SF to mid-peninsula. Sometimes even less. To SFO much less than that.


Both these companies have sophisticated price discrimination systems; two people catching the same ride at the same time will pay different prices, as I found out recently with a friend who gets much lower prices on Uber than I do.

Interesting - I gander it's at least somewhat related to how often you use the platform. People who rarely ride probably get lower prices in an attempt to capture them as riders.

My hypothesis is that they try to figure out what prices to set to extract maximum profit, based on how much they think you're willing to pay, how busy the drivers are, how much profit they're currently making in that geographic area, etc.

It's much easier to entice new riders by giving them coupons than it is to generally lower their fares.

Uber pricing varies quite a bit. I use uberpool frequently and have noticed a 40 percent change in price by changing my destination by a block or two. Which for the ride I am requesting is a very minor change.

Increasingly less frequently.

I fully extremely appreciate how I like the redundentcy of the repetitive redundance.

It's not redundant.

frequently: frequency is high

less frequently: frequency is low

increasingly frequently: dfrequency/dt > 0

increasingly less frequently: dfrequency/dt < 0

Sure, but it's generally just "less" or "less and less."

On top of that I get a monthly Uber pass for $12. Gives me unlimited rides at fixed price of $3.50 withing 20 miles radius or so.

How can that be profitable for uber? Never heard of that pass before but sounds like an awful idea for them (and a great idea for commuters with a 15-20 mile commute). Having a private driver and no costs for a car for ~$160 per month is cheaper than just the car when you drive yourself.

Would love them to introduce that in London, the price would be the same as for a tube season ticket.

I suspect to build a steady base of pool rides. Once the market stabilizes they can dump the promo and keep the pool drivers busy.

Uber gave me that, too, but only for last month. Lyft have me a flat fare deal for this month, so I use it now.

For me it’s the opposite. I think it’s all about the city, promotions, and how these companies view you. I recently priced a ride to my friends place immediately after he talked about a $3 ride home... for the exact same location it was $9 for me. Things are very dynamic.

Honest question, what do you think causes the price difference?

Randomly speculating here

- Uber has more money on their hands and is massively subsidizing something that may not be sustainable long-term

- Uber may have more customers and can pool rides more efficiently and cost-effectively

Uber subsidizes less. Its losses as a percent of gross bookings is -8% while Lyft's is -13.5%. Uber is cheaper while subsidizing less because it's more efficient.

Me, too. One important detail is that I uninstalled Uber's app after reading about it tracking me, about Uber's extremely toxic culture, about their poor treatment of drivers and illegal activities.

So now it's Lyft. A nice bonus is that I absolutely love the UX.

> The level of differentiation is so small I don't think much of that matters.

My experience has been otherwise. The apps are commodities, but Lyft drivers have been consistently nicer humans that seem to care more about their cars.

I do get the occasional nice Uber driver, but most of them seem to have zero interest in what they're doing. If the car runs, it's good to go. They just want you in and out as fas as possible.

Except same people drive for both companies. There is a very tiny fraction of drivers driving for just one. And in general they make more money using Uber because of quests (bonus after finishing certain rides per day). The experience depends on your luck and which driver you end up getting.

> Which service I use just depends on which app I feel like opening.

Which service I use just depends on 2 factors: Least of the estimated fares and speedier pick-up. And of course if the 'Pool' or 'Line' carpooling available on the route I am going.

"The level of differentiations is so small I don't think much of that matters"

there are hundreds of additional subconsious decisions being made in a persons head that inform which app will ultimately be opened up. These companies public actions/reactions matter ALOT in terms of determining their success.

The decision for me is always based solely on which one is cheaper for the trip I'm trying to make. I'd be surprised if that wasn't the case for a lot of people.

But Uber forgot how to not be evil.

The apps may be similar but the companies aren't. Specifically, Lyft doesn't seem to be a raging dumpster fire.

> Which service I use just depends on which app I feel like opening.

You could say the same thing about search engines, it's just a matter of which search engine you open. I'm sure you'll say 'but they give different results, and one is faster, and one doesn't track me, etcetera' - but you could make the same argument about Uber vs Lyft. At one point only one service offered tipping (although that's since changed). Initially Lyft drivers tended to fist bump their riders and would encourage them to sit in the front seat, although that seems to be less common. They do seem to be getting more and more similar, but it's not hard for them to differentiate themselves beyond price.

I honestly have no reason to prefer Uber over Lyft except if maybe one is surging and the other isn't. As an end-user the experience is indistinguishable, especially since most drivers drive for both services. At least with Bing I'm a little annoyed at worse results or that the videos don't go direct to YouTube.

Analogy of ride-hailing service with Search engine is flawed. At the end of the day ride-hailing apps just get us from Point A to Point B whereas search engine gets us vital information on time which depends a lot on "search quality". There is no such thing as "ride quality" when deciding on using either Uber or Lyft.

If "ride quality" is some kind of chimera, then these ride-sharing businesses are spinning their wheels trying to gather satisfaction metrics at the end of each ride provided (e.g., "Please rate your experience/driver/&c." questions prompted by the respective app).

My latest tactic is to answer these questions in an unnaturally enthusiastic, — yet earnest — manner, while at the same time avoiding commenting whatsoever on the ride itself.

"Kevin is proving to be a very valuable member of the team with a promising future ahead!" or some similar piffle.

I suggest everyone try it; it's an interesting challenge to invent a new variation following every ride.

(And I just imagine what such constructions do to the filtering AI they probably send these through. My goal is to have each one reach human eyeballs, but seeing as I'll never know for sure it's akin to a message in a bottle. It's still fun, though.)

There is such a thing as ride quality; I choose to ride Lyft specifically because a representative from Lyft actually gets in a driver's car and rides with them before allowing them on the platform. Though the difference in quality is much less than the difference between Google and Bing for instance.

That depends on location. They recently expanded into my city and only wanted a self-inspection. Literally a checkbox that says “yes, I verified these things”.

Uber at least demands a check sheet filled and signed by a mechanic from a list provided by them, and it has to be refreshed yearly.

Perhaps it has changed in general. When I first started riding with Lyft two years ago that was policy everywhere. Maybe they realized it is not something that can be accomplished at scale. Which would be unfortunate because I know several people, women in particular, who found that policy to be a differentiator in the rideshare competition.

From what I have read on driver subreddits Lyft takes far shorter time like 2 days to approve drivers as opposed to Uber which takes 2 weeks.

In my experience, driving for both about two years ago, Lyft did require an in-person visit from a "mentor" to get approved, while Uber did not. Neither required any sort of technical inspection or mechanic check.

For me, implied pressure to socialize with the driver ("fist bumping" etc.) would be a bug, not a feature.

Really? Uber is still the only app that I can almost frictionlessly use when flying over different cities.

True but if people prefer Lyft over Uber in many markets then Lyft will do well and expand to more cities/countries. In San Francisco I find a lot of people prefer Lyft. Most were turned off by Uber's many scandals and a few mentioned they like the better refund policy if you cancel a ride.

Uber was initially ahead on brand recognition and funding so they expanded aggressively. This may come back to haunt them as they have to fight every jurisdiction where they rushed in and often broke laws. Lyft could definitely move into more markets as the article says they plan to do.

Aside from the not-Uber aspect, istio and envoy have driven a lot of excitement around lyft from a tech perspective. I wonder how much that factors in here or if I'm overestimating the hype.

I notice they are also advertising more. I'm surprised to see their ads in the current football game.

I don't think anybody is using istio quite yet..

To address the elephant in the room:

>Alphabet is also an Uber shareholder through its GV venture capital arm, but Waymo, a unit of Alphabet, is currently suing Uber over self-driving car technology. As the relationship has deteriorated, Waymo signed a partnership with Lyft to work together on testing autonomous vehicles.

>Uber is advancing on an investment from SoftBank Group Corp. and others of as much as $12 billion, most of which would allow existing shareholders to cash out.

These two events don't seem unrelated, there appears to be a big shuffle-up going on. GV must be one of the shareholders looking to cash out of Uber.

Google ventures was part of a 258 million dollar investment round in Uber in 2013, and it's anybody's guess as to what that's worth today with the complexities of Uber finances.

Alphabet subsidiary Waymo announced a partnership with Lyft in May, though the particulars of that partnership were vague.

Interesting observation! It makes total sense!

Venture Capital routinely has investments in the same kinds of ventures in their portfolio.

Yes, although you - the lowly plebe - only has the ability to feign passion for and work for a single founder at a time, the same VC's will be at Startup Grind 2018 bragging about how they have two dozen of the same kinds of companies in their portfolio, because they had a moonshot on one of them in the 90s.

This is a plot point in season one of Silicon Valley, for whatever that's worth.

Thanks. As a casual observer, I was losing track.

It's best for their licensing business if the market does not turn into a monopsony.

What's the game plan here? Burn investors money by offering cheap rides until...self driving cars can take over? It seems Uber and Lyft are both heavily subsidizing the actual cost of the ride and paying for that out of pocket. I use both services (Lyft preferably) when travelling to a country with drivers, and I'm not sure I've ever paid full price for a ride. "$25 credit" "50% off" "half price all weekend" promos seem to be coming in constantly.

Is either company building a viable business? Or will usage sharply drop off once they have to eventually charge a realistic rate for a ride? Or are the drivers just a temporary casualty and the plan is to get rid of them completely ASAP?

I'm not sure what Lyft's story is, but Uber is profitable in developed market, but is pouring enormous amounts of cash into expanding as rapidly as possible. I believe that if they cut back growth efforts, they can hit profitability relatively quickly, but this would probably bring the valuation down from the sky high level that it is at the moment.

Uber subsidizes some rides even without discounts. Just a few nights ago I paid ~$17 for a pool ride where 1) I was the only passenger the entire length of the ride and 2) the driver was paid ~$21.

presumably that is balanced by the times when there are two riders paying $17 and the driver is paid $21.

Not relevant to you questions, but I'm shocked about the discounts. My only ride without paying the full price was the first ride.

For the record it has been like this in Poland since 2016. It is cheaper here, but at the same ratio vs. taxi prices. Also no uber pool here or Lyft at all here.

I use Uber about once a month in various EU countries and I never get a discount? How do I get where you are?

It's strange when companies leak that kind of information before a deal has been signed. It sounds desperate... Like if that will increase the pressure on Google to follow through with the deal... Or maybe it's also to incentivize prospective investors to sign over their funds to Lyft.

To me it reads like a warning sign that Lyft desperately needs money.

I think you've hit the nail on the head here. I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that Lyft needs money. Both Lyft and Uber are operating at a big loss, and Lyft has been bleeding drivers over to Uber for the last couple of months if the user surveys from /r/lyft and /r/uber on reddit are any thing to go by.

If someone in Lyft management thinks that this leak will help twist Alphabet's arm even a little, of course they are going to leak it.

I've been thinking a little about the economics of self driving cars and it seems to make sense that they'd seek a partnership with a ride sharing service. While I guess the eventual goal could be "a self driving car in every garage", you'd probably pay for more for one if (1) you're using it all the time (high utilization), and (2) it introduces some other kind of savings (like not having to pay a driver). Consumers have neither really but taxi/trucking companies would have both. I guess it's a question of how much the hardware is really going to cost. Does anybody know of publications that talk about the economics here?

I highly suggest checking out the a16z podcast. There's an incredible episode called "Cars and Cities, The Autonomy Edition." The podcast is pretty interesting generally, but this one reshaped my entire understanding of autonomous vehicles and their societal impact.


Edit: The podcast is a conversation with Taggart Matthiesen, director of product at Lyft.

As of now the goal of companies leading in this area is not be a "self driving car in every garage", but ride sharing in metropolitan cities. There's no rush to provide L5 level capabilities to a farm owner in Idaho

Yet that farm owner will probably have a 'crew' of self-driving tractors.

Actually you already have mostly self driving tractors. However wheb there's that much money at stake, hiring a driver to hit "stop" if something goes wrong is a very cheap option.

Not sure why you were downvoted -- autosteer and more advanced farm vehicle automation technology has been available and in wide use for years. Sub-cm level accuracy is widely commercially available.

Planting/havesting/etc regular rows of crops on private property with computer positioning control is easy compared to high-level auto-driving on public roadways.

Similar position-automation technology is widely used in mining, construction and more.

I think the end game is more like the end of individual car ownership in cities. Company-owned or ideally(!!!) municiple fleets would be much more efficient in that idle time and parking would fade away.

I agree that's the end-game but recently I've revised my expected timetable.

I fully expected that my daughters, now 12 and 13, might never need to own cars. My wife even thinks they may never need to learn to drive. I now think that's unrealistic. It's true that for 95%+ of most journeys, self driving cars would be fine, but that last 5% or less really matters even if for only a minority of journeys. Finding a parking space can be very hard and our current streets, curbs and driveways aren't designed for self-driving vehicles. Rural settings can also be highly challenging.

I think the big changes initially will be road haulage because companies can re-engineer pickup and drop-off points to be highly autonomous friendly and automated. Next will be companies like Uber and Lyft providing driverless cabs from and to designated points. Then a gradual demographic trend to less car ownership, but driverless cars for the masses are going to take at least a decade to come IMHO. The last 10m is really tough in too many common scenarios.

I agree that the last 10 meters is going to be one of the harder things to solve, but i think you'll see people building calibrated parking spots into their driveways (some way of teaching the car how to get there from the road) and perhaps even companies doing the same with their parking lots and then publishing the details online. As self driving cars become more ubiquitous there will be companies that spring up to precision map places and feed that data into whatever databases the cars use.

Not sure about that. Sure it makes sense, taking public transport in Europe also makes sense and many people use it most of the time. But there are times when you want your own car. And with a family that happens often. Also, many people love cars. I don't think many people (esp those with family) will give up their car. Can be more expensive and less convenient and most will still do it.

If cars were really just to get around, we'd see different kinds of cars on the road. Cars are a lifestyle symbol and for many people a place where they spend a lot of time. You don't want to rely on municiple fleets for that.

Seems like part of uber's moat is the driver network -- having drivers available everywhere.

But at least that part of the moat disappears when you no longer need drivers.

Behind all the drama with the Waymo lawsuit and the tornado that was Anthony Levandowski blowing through, Uber's advanced technology group has been quietly and doggedly plugging away at the self driving problem.

They announced today that they've logged their 1 millionth test mile, and completed over 30,000 passenger rides in Pittsburgh and Tempe.

I have no idea how good their cars are compared to their competitors, but, with 200 test cars, their operation is supassed in scale only by Waymo.

They're hard at work digging their moat. Clearly Lyft has some tricks up it's sleeve as well.

Right, that's a different moat and a new playing field though. It seems like it could be less of a network effect, possibly more of an economy of scale effect. Or maybe those two usually end up coinciding.

Or maybe not, maybe they'll be some point where the software matures enough that people end up being sort of indifferent between who developed it as long as it passes some "good enough" threshold, and some of the set of developers with good enough software will license it to whoever wants it to undermine the dominant player. For example I'm not sure which of the Maps/directions apps out there right now is actually the best, but they all seem good enough to use and I can't actually tell which is superior except for rare edge cases that I won't see often enough to be able to quantify.

While 1 million miles sounds impressive, it's probably not more than any of the big OEMs has done so far. Every car manufacturer is working on self driving cars, plus some others (Waymo, Uber, Continental). The difference is that manufacturers don't talk that openly about it. They are used to keep advances secret until you can buy it. I'm sure Daimler, VW, GM and Ford test with a similar fleet.

If they come to market at the same time as others they'd need to find a manufacturer that doesn't already offer it. If they want to be first they need to beat manufacturers that have recognised the risk and can spend several billions a year without making a loss..

You're not going to be able to provide any sources for your claims because there are none. You are bullshitting.

That is interesting and odd as Uber in general has become significantly worse in directing drivers to pickup locations. In my experience over the last month, most drivers ignore the app and use common sense with a far higher degree of accuracy vs Uber's broken GPS

To my knowledge, the background check that Lyft has for its drivers is so lax that people can drive without having a social security number. I'm wondering how many undocumented drivers are working for Lyft as opposed to Uber, and how this squares with their squeaky-clean image.

Seriously, you're worried about whether they might be undocumented? If Lyft has Lax background checks that would have me worried more about my safety and less about immigration issues.

Are these lax checks something you know firsthand or have read somewhere?

I'm not worried about them being undocumented. What bothers me is that a company that claims to follow the law to a T and uses that as a marketing point contributes to violations of US immigration law.

(I know a guy who has driven for Lyft for months while he had a tourist visa. He entered an all-zeros SSN when he registered, and they never followed up.)

Citation needed.

Well there are plenty of social security numbers floating around now.

the "L" in the alphabet puzzle?

Glad to hear this, I hope lyft uses the funds to get more drivers on board and advertise to more passengers. Lyft is transparent about its cut which is flat 25% while uber is being a total scam sometimes keeping up to 55% of the fare to itself.

I hope someone will combine decentralized currency with ride-sharing, such that the car owner gets a much higher percentage of the profits and the rider pays less. A small amount can also go to the app writer, who would be using the shared decentralized backend(such that multiple apps could share the same decentralized data store).

Once self-driving arrives each transaction could be a barter based on source and destination locations, along with the self-driving car's specific schedule. An intelligent network may emerge, where specific rides are cheaper for a car that needs to go to the specified area of town.

You could further augment costs by allowing the self-driving car to manage it's own energy supply.

I realize there are downsides to be thought through and the technology is nowhere near ready for this idea.

What does the decentralized currency add to it? Why/how would drivers get a larger percentage of the fare, in combination with the rider paying less? Right now ridesharing is cheap because it's partially subsidized; prices would go up if you stop doing that.

Centralised currency requires a bank like entity to transfer money from customer to driver. That forces the app to be centralised and one run by a unicorn. Small players will get fleeced on txn charges.

A decentralised app (or apps) could work on a protocol and use bitcoin and the margins can be squeezed to almost zero as there are lots of competing apps, providers and aggregators etc.

Think: like airlines. Only without the luxury/economy differentiation that exists in that industry.

Ridesharing is subsidized right now but that can't last forever, right?

Transaction costs are an insignificantly small part of what it costs to run an Uber or a Lyft. Most of their costs go to employee salaries (including developers and customer support) and hosting fees.

I don't understand what using a decentralized currency would really change. Uber or Lyft could very easily add decentralized currencies as payment options in their apps now. It wouldn't change anything about the fundamental nature of the business other than you'd have another payment option. They still have to pay their software engineers, etc.

As for this theoretical decentralized app, who writes it? Who pays to run the servers? If I have a problem with my ride, who is the arbiter?

Service could be delivered cheaper as you wait 8 minutes for your BTC transaction to be confirmed. It's a very innovative way to increase wait times while increasing customer satisfaction amongst those who give a shit how the payment manages to transact.

There are several altcoins offering fast transactions these days. I agree about bitcoin, very slow and scary waiting for the transaction.

> I hope someone will combine decentralized currency with ride-sharing

That would be ideal, but I'd be happy if one can call a ride-share in an anonymous way (just like a regular taxi) and pay by cash, without tons of cameras spying on you during your trip. Somehow I guess this not going to happen like that, and tracking where you go is going to be another ad-selling business in itself as well as new tactics for privacy invasion. Oh, and there's a good chance it will be calling home to Google, again.

Lyft will be the first taxi company with self driving cars at scale. With this investment, they won’t bother with other markets till they have US sorted out.

Enemy of my enemy ...

Is non-commutitivity.

After having invested $300MM in Uber, this is an interesting diversification strategy.

How is Lyft any better than Uber?

Uber seem like such dickheads, I uninstalled it and used Lyft exclusively.

Good for them.

Certainly your prerogative. But you're in coalition with the tiny minority who stopped flying United after the Chicago PD yanked the guy off a flight.

Regardless of Uber or United, what's your point? If everybody else turns a blind eye to bad behavior, we might as well abandon our own principles out of convenience?

I tried Lyft and I much prefer the UI! The apps way better. But then I compared quotes for a fare across town and Uber was about 40% cheaper. I'm not stingy but that seemed ridiculous to me.

That probably means the driver is earning more, which indirectly results in a better and more sustainable service which I see as two huge benefits. While I'd be hesitant too, I might use Lyft despite it costing more.

As it is though I live in the UK so I can't.

It probably means the driver is earning more per ride. It might very well mean they're earning less in total.

I didn't uninstall, but Lyft is first choice unless it's on surge pricing. Must admit Uber Eats is useful though

Alphabet by putting its fingers in every possible pie is begging for split-up.

I can't wait for them to be split them up. It could be the EU or the Republican party that succeeds in making this happen.

Why the Republican party? Isn't the Republican party pro free market and business generally?

Interesting that you don't regard breaking up monopolies (if we call Alphabet that for the sake of argument) as being "pro free market and business".

That's assuming "pro free market" and "pro business" aren't in contradiction with each other. It rather depends which business one is being "pro" towards.

Alphabet has too much money syndrome. It's a nice problem to have; they obviously don't have enough good stuff to invest in. Lyft/Uber have no special sauce. They have a quickly growing revenue stream with dubious profit potential. That's it. Consumer internet is AlphaGoogle's bread and butter. They could easily put these guys out of business.

Regulatory concern and Wall Street accounting image management would be the justification for this kind of deal.

> Lyft/Uber have no special sauce.

So are you saying a new player can easily beat them?

With Google's warchest? Without a doubt. Google could run these guys over with their unsold inventory alone. Though I imagine that's probably used to prop up the CPAs of their big buyers. They could also snap their fingers and add a taxi app to all devices with Google Play Services.

Not sure why you're being down-voted so harshly. Google already has its own credit processing, mapping, routing, business management, and it's in nearly 60% of consumer pockets. A built-in (default installed) Android app which integrated with those services seems poised to make a serious run at market share. Drivers have no loyalty - better pay always wins. And Google doesn't need a profit, it needs only break even.

Though, it wouldn't really make sense given their business model. They want to know where you are, not get you there. If you have an Android phone, they already have that information. So it seems like an unlikely play.

Well... I think the case of google+ shows that it's not that easy to transfer marketshare between products. Or at least that google is not that great at it.

> Not sure why you're being down-voted so harshly.

Lyft employees? So far, there are not really any substantive counter arguments being posted. It's pretty rational to down-vote my comments if you have stock options that vest on acquisition. I bear no grudge, these people gotta earn.

Google wants in on this market because it fits in with their self driving car plans. Car Drones don't really make sense without the context of a rental market because right now the cost of the LIDAR sensors alone can be as much as the cost of the car itself.

That's why Tesla's stated goal is to do it with CCD cameras like the ones found in your phone. Because the cost of adding them to the car is next to nothing.

Indeed, they already have a trial taxi app, Waze Carpool.

Though right now they follow the UberPOP pricing model, at-cost rides. It has additional aspects that only work for commutes. For example, the rider has to wait at a pick-up point near a highway.

That said, if they made any serious effort, they could likely gain significant market share. Uber and Lyft already did the hard work of lobbying and creating the demand for riding and driving. Google could swoop in and reap the benefits.

It would require Google to do something novel for the company: have large distributed customer-facing operations.

> With Google's warchest?

So why did Google fail with Google Plus with such a huge warchest?

They didn't make a pixel perfect copy of Facebook. Instead they made their own thing, because vanity, ego, pride, etc.

If they did that before 2007, we'd be talking about Facebook like it was MySpace right now.

> They didn't make a pixel perfect copy of Facebook.

So you are saying they failed even with the huge warchest.

That characterization seems imprecise. I believe some parts of Google's social strategy are growing organically (eg. Gmail, Hangouts). My understanding is that a big part of G+ was rebuilding their entire product backend around global identity, and that has been pretty successful. If Google AI in the future makes a magical suggestion to you, it's because all their apps now have a single understanding of who you are, and before G+ that was not the case.

If your point is that Google could fuck up a ride market the way they let Facebook slip past, that seems like a pretty broad overreach to me. Identity on the internet is complex thing, they had big brother issues to contend with, also Google was a much more idealistic company back then with their "Dont be Evil" ethos. Ride sharing is a commodity industry and basically consists of an app with a single "Come Here" button. It's a false equivalency in my view.

Your argument was that Google cannot fail just because they have a huge warchest, I gave you an example where they failed.

Just because they have money does not automatically mean then will win the ride sharing market.

So do you think they'd get some market share like Lyft and Uber have?

Do you think their driveless cars (that are way ahead of everyone else) might help them lower some of their biggest costs on the supply side on sunny days when passengers need to travel low risk routes?

Your argument was that they failed with G+, so that equates with this situation. I'm saying it doesn't equate. Success & failure are more granular than the binary thing you are making it out to be. G+ brought Google other benefits.

> Success & failure are more granular than the binary thing you are making it out to be.

Exactly, now you get it. Just because a company has huge warchest does not automatically mean they will succeed at everything.

There is much more of a network effect with social networks than with app taxis.

Actually taxi apps might have a network effect too. Riders won't download until there are enough drivers, and drivers won't sign up until there are enough riders.

Yeah but you can solve one side (drivers) with money. With a social network that's not so simple.

if they do anything to advantage installation and usage of their own app over the existing alternatives, they are going to be doing the exact same anti-competitive thing as Microsoft did with Internet Explorer.

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