When ride-sharing apps made their debut a few years ago, lots of people thought it was crazy to get in a stranger’s car, and now we all do it at 2 a.m. without even thinking. Did you expect attitudes to change so quickly? It definitely moved faster than, I think, anyone — including myself — thought. We knew that we would need to change people’s behavior. It actually was one of the main reasons the original tagline was “your friend with a car.”
You’ve been vocal about fighting climate change, but studies have shown that Lyft and Uber pull people away from mass transit and carbon-neutral options like biking or walking. Isn’t that at odds with helping the environment? We’ve seen studies that have shown both sides of this. You know, 80 percent of people commute to work by car alone. Just half a percent of all miles driven happen in a Lyft or Uber. But we want to be part of the solution. The purpose of the effort we just announced — buying carbon offsets for all Lyft rides — was not to say this is a permanent solution, but to say we’re going to take action. We care a lot about this, and we have more work to do.
The internet made fun of Lyft Shuttle when it was announced because the service — a fixed route with predetermined stops — sounds a lot like a bus. Why is it not a bus? Well, we weren’t claiming that we were coming up with, like, a novel concept. We were trying to do exactly what you asked about in the last question, which is work to get more people to share the ride.
Lyft is investing heavily in developing self-driving cars. In fact, you wrote on your blog that by 2022, a majority of Lyft rides will use autonomous vehicles. Is there any possibility that driverless cars are going to end up being like jet packs, where 60 years from now we’ll be wondering, “When are those going to happen?” No. I don’t think so. This is real. I believe this will be the largest physical environment change that we witness in our lives. Our cities have been designed around car ownership, and we actually will be able to change that and design cities for people.
You think private-car ownership is going to end, at least in urban areas, because using services like Lyft will be cheaper and easier. But Elon Musk has predicted that people will still buy cars and make money off them by allowing them to taxi other people around when not in use. Is it possible that he’s right and you’re wrong? I don’t believe so. From a customer perspective, you just want to get from point A to B. And in the world he was describing, who would be responsible for the cleaning? Or if someone left their bag in your car? It’s going to be way more efficient for Lyft to do all of the maintenance and cleaning and parking for you. I’m quite confident that car ownership will not make sense in the future.
John Zimmer is the president and co-founder of Lyft, a ride-sharing company. Age: 34 Occupation: Entrepreneur Hometown: Greenwich, Conn. $14.83 an hour: The estimated average wage a Lyft driver earns, after costs and including downtime.
Here’s one thing I’ve always wondered about driverless cars. You have to enter a destination, but what if you don’t have a destination? Say you’re driving around your neighborhood searching for your lost dog, or you just got dumped and you want to drive through the countryside and clear your head and contemplate the nature of love. How does your driverless car get you around? In that case I think you’d have to have, like, contemplation mode and lost-dog mode, and I guess those haven’t been thought about yet. Now I’ll contemplate them.
Have you ever taken an Uber? No, I don’t think so.
Would you ever take an Uber? I think I’ll say the same thing: I don’t think so.
You’re lost in the desert, it’s Day 3 without food or water. You’ve been checking your Lyft app — there are no Lyfts. But you check Uber and there’s one passing by. Are you going to take that Uber? I don’t think so.