Ride-Hail’s Next Battleground in the Fight for Passengers: Inside the Car

There is very little loyalty in ride-hail. In many markets, drivers work with multiple platforms and often accept the first request that comes in. Riders, on the other hand, typically choose a service based on price, availability and convenience.

For years, Uber, Lyft and many of their counterparts around the globe have worked hard to scale a passenger "experience." Many (myself included) argued that transporting a culture and aesthetic from market to market was a lofty, if not impossible, goal because the passengers' primary interaction with said culture was with the companies' hundreds of thousands of drivers.

As independent contractors, drivers cannot be "trained" by the company or told how to perform their jobs; otherwise, they could argue they are, in fact, employees of Uber and Lyft.

So now, as valuations soar and the need to deliver returns becomes more pressing, ride-hail companies are competing for passenger loyalty by attempting to enhance the in-car experience using ... well ... technology. While Uber took the software approach, the company's main competitors, Lyft and Ola, have instead decided to make a push into hardware.

Manufacturing hardware, which neither Lyft nor Ola are charging its drivers for, is an often costly and time-consuming endeavor, especially considering that the appeal of app-based companies is not having to worry about covering the costs of things like creating, producing and then shipping a physical product. (Neither company would disclose the cost to produce their devices.)

More importantly, it's also unclear whether it's a worthy push for either company as they continue to fight an expensive war against Uber in the U.S. and India. While figuring out how to scale an experience tangibly is a difficult problem to solve, it seems unlikely that passengers would choose one service over another based on the presence of these devices.

But the bottom line is that...

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