Your Private Driver: Lyft Gets on Schedule

This is a returning and soon to be weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft. 

One of the most popular features in the rideshare world is the ability to schedule a ride in advance. I’ve written before about how the feature doesn’t really work the way people think it does, since functionally there’s no difference between a scheduled ride and one requested as you’re walking out the door. Still, the placebo effect is a strong one, and a significant chunk of early-morning rides are scheduled in advance (based on my completely statistically accurate method of asking my riders when I pick them up). This is probably because of marketing. Uber and especially Lyft hype up their services as the inaccurate answer to all of their “Can I get a ride at 4 AM?” inquiries.

Regardless of the lack of any type of guarantee, the feature seems to be working for the most part. Online reviews in the tech sphere are glowing, and reports of driver no-shows are rare and limited to the fringes of social media.

From the driver’s perspective, Lyft seems to be the preferred company to deal with as far as scheduled rides are concerned. For starters, the driver is actually aware that the ride has been scheduled. Depending on how far away the pickup is, the ride may also have a built-in Prime Time bonus, which can make attempting these rides more lucrative than random pings. Uber offers none of these features.

Now, Lyft is stepping their game up once again by allowing drivers to accept scheduled rides in advance. The feature is out in limited release, so not all drivers have access to it yet. When it works properly however, this feature could be a game-changer–at least on the driver’s end. But what does this mean for the passenger?

For one thing, it should offer better odds that a ride request will be completed. Not just for early-morning airport runs, but for suburban areas as well. One of the greatest annoyances to rideshare drivers is getting a ride request that’s 15 to 20 minutes away, only to find out that their passenger is just going to the 7-Eleven a few blocks down the street. In lower-density areas, requests like these are all too common, so a lot of them may go unanswered. Drivers don’t know for certain that a far-away ride request is going to be a short trip; there’s a chance it could be going across the city as well. Still, most drivers know what the odds are in their market and respond accordingly. In my Los Angeles experience, the effort involved in driving 20 minutes away is statistically not worth it.

This new feature takes away all of the guesswork, since drivers can now see well in advance not only where and when a scheduled pickup is, but also where their passenger is going. No more surprises! And armed with this knowledge, drivers are more likely to say “yes” to any trip that benefits their situation. A part-time driver from a nearby suburb may take many short trips to fill their ride quota while making sure they haven’t moved too far away from their home. A full-time driver can make sure they get longer trips or ones heading to a certain destination where they can get more profitable fares. Riders get fewer cancellations or other nonsense to deal with. Everyone wins!

Kudos to Lyft for once again coming up with a useful innovation that benefits their drivers as well as their passengers, instead of useless fluff like achievements. Here’s hoping that their next big breakthrough will be allowing drivers to text their waiting passengers through the app instead of via convoluted workarounds. It’s the little things that really matter, you know?

Sekani Wright is an experienced Lyft 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!