First off, let us be clear that this is not about increasing driver pay, or lowering passenger cost. Uber and Lyft are not going to pay their drivers more money. Both ride hail companies have been bleeding Venture Capital money by the billions, each and every quarter. They are constantly looking for ways to grow revenue (read: entice Passengers) and minimize cost (read: pay Drivers less).
I am not going to talk about money.
If either of these platforms cannot make their driver pool rich, they can at least make them happy (ok, a wee bit happier). The “180 Days of Change” at UBER was, by all accounts, a bust. Outside of adding in-app tipping option (which very few Riders use) there was little gain beyond some snappy public relations to by Dara Khosrowshahi's key driver facing initiative.
And yet, in the past year, the number of Active Drivers on the road has gone up and up and up. There needs to be better way to nudge passengers towards the better Drivers, and Drivers' diligence and improvement to customer service to be rewarded.
Uber and Lyft no longer have ‘long pick-up issues’ as there is a saturation of drivers right around the corner. Both platforms are in a good position to implement some of the features, below, to give a better experience to the Passengers and the Drivers. This would be done mainly by ceding control to the parameters of potential rides either by algorithm, or drop-down box in both the Passenger App and the Driver App.
1. The Car Seat Option
For Passengers in some markets, this does exist already. Oddly, and likely due to municipal regulation variation it is not in all markets. A protocol for the type of car seat a driver will have to own, maintain, and demonstrate (in my market, it is to the local Fire Department) that they know how to install and use properly.
If this is communicated to Lyft/Uber, then in the Passenger App, there would be a check box for parents travelling with a small child (or infant) to get a ride from a driver with a car seat. There could be a multiplier for drivers who own multiple available car seats.
While Passengers may wait a bit longer for pick up (same as XL or Black) they will be getting a legal, safe ride. And some less scrupulous drivers will not be given the temptation of accepting an illegal ride, risking the safety of the child and their license being taken away.
For Drivers, when a ride is hailed by parents with small children who do not have a legal car (or booster) seat, they should be penalized a $5 cancel fee immediately via a drop-down box in the Driver App. The driver should not have to wait out the 5 minutes, then call customer support to get this fee. Drivers would be happy to not have to do all the run-around because Uber or Lyft has failed to educate their rider base. It would also minimize at-the-curb conflicts, where Riders push back and say, "my last driver took us."
For drivers who attempt to scam the system (you can be sure a few will) by picking this option for any passenger without 'toes on the curb' (i.e. trying to avoid waiting the 5 minutes prior to cancellation) the system should be smart enough, based on customer complaints and actuarial table frequency to weed out bad-actor drivers.
2. High Rated Driver Filter for Passengers
A drop-down box in the Passenger app that would allow Riders to filter out low-rated drivers. The potential rider just dials in a number (say 4.9) and no pings will be issued to a driver less than 4.90.
Uber/Lyft does not need to charge the passenger extra for the option, the cost to the passenger would be a potential higher wait time, as there will be less drivers nearby due to rating filter.
Personally, when I am a passenger, I would have the app default locked to 4.9, and be more than happy to wait an extra 2 minutes for a good, responsible driver with a clean car. The benefit to drivers here would be that if you maintain a good rating, you will get more pings. And the benefit to Passengers would be a more consistent ride-hail experience.
3. Low Rated Passenger Filter for Drivers
Similar to #2 above. An drop down box in the Driver app that would allow for drivers to enter the lowest rating of passenger they are willing to pick up. The app would only issue pings for Riders that met the criteria. For instance, if a Driver were to enter 4.6, then no pings 4.59 or lower would not be issued to that Driver.
Acceptance Rates would be preserved. There would be less distractions while driving, as Drivers could now accept all pings without scrutinizing their screen.
Furthermore, it would also educate Riders to behave better, as there would be real consequences to having a low rating. There would be more incentive to be toes on curb, tipping, and other "Good Pax" behaviours once Riders realized their pick up times are getting longer due to driver filters.
4. Radius Filters For Drivers
This would be a drop down box in the Driver's App. It would work by selecting the number of miles (or kilometres if you are not in the United States) which would act as a radius on which Pings would be issued to that particular Driver, based on their willingness to 'drive far' to pick up potential Riders.
This would effectively eliminate the problem many Lyft drivers experience with exceptionally long (>10 minutes) pick ups and impacted Acceptance Rates, with associated nag emails and texts from the Lyft Mothership.
If you set the filter to 4 miles, then no pings would be sent to you outside the circle drawn between your current location and the distance radius. To the best of my knowledge the ride hail company Taxify offers this kind of feature as an adjustible circle on the driver app. I would be interested in how effective this has worked for Drivers in Europe and Australia where Taxify operates.
If you wanted to be really clever, it could be combined with a second 'destination' radius (with a certain number of Driver Destination Filters per day) that would dictate how far the Driver is willing to go from the ping location to the drop-off. This would allow for more flexibility in Drivers managing their time between other non-ride-hailing tasks, and would likely put more drivers on the road, as they can better manage 'filling in the cracks' with confidence and control.
5. Passenger/Driver Rematch
This feature would be invisible to both Passengers and Drivers, and baked into the Ping Selection Algorithm for Uber or Lyft. If a Driver rates a Passenger 5 Stars and the Rider rates the Driver 5 Stars then, in the future, there would be a priority-bias in the algorithm within perhaps 2-3 minute extra pick up time to re-match the passenger and rider in the future.
Both the Driver and Rider would be given a preferred, previously vetted, and potentially good future experience based on past behavior.
Good Drivers would happy to get extra pings (you could put a text on the Driver’s Ping screen saying something along the lines of ‘Great Passenger Re-Match,’ and likewise on the Rider’s app saying ‘We have Re-Matched you with a preferred Driver.’ I believe this already exists already in some form in the Lyft App, as I get a lot of re-matched Passengers (some times with 5+ minute pick ups) even though my neighborhood is saturated with many, closer drivers.
BONUS: Green Vehicle Option in Passenger App
Give the option to Riders to select a green vehicle. There would be no extra charge to the Rider for this, only that the Passenger may have to wait and extra few minutes if no green vehicles are near by.
This feature would reward drivers who are driving hybrids or electric vehicles, and thus not clogging the streets with extra tail pipe emissions. It would incentivize Drivers to consider these types of vehicles, which would result in better public relations for Uber/Lyft with municipalities (many of which are attempting to lower emissions and improve air quality in a variety of ways) as well as provide an option environmentally conscious Riders.
Frankly, in 2019, I am surprised this does not exist already, as Uber/Lyft has all the data on all their Driver's Vehicles already. It would be a simple set of criterion on what is a Green Vehicle and what is not, and a tickbox in the App, or a tab alongside X, XL, Select, BLACK and BLACK SUV. Hey App engineers, get on this, STAT.