When news broke months ago that ride-hailing service Lyft and Big Four automaker GM had signed a deal to jointly invest in a future of self-driving cars, the very idea of these two companies working together seemed anathema. However, aspects of that partnership are already bearing fruit, and both companies are ready to bear much more of it.
Recode is reporting that Lyft and GM are throwing more backing behind their jointly run Express Drive program that lets Lyft drivers rent GM vehicles for use through the ride-hailing platform. First launched in March on a trial basis in Chicago, as of Thursday (June 23), Express Drive is also up and running in Baltimore, Boston and Washington, D.C. In an interview, Lyft Director of Operations Strategy David Rust explained that there's been a demonstrated interest in drivers who want to work for Lyft but don't have the vehicular means to do so.
“In Washington, D.C., we’ve seen strong interest from drivers,” Rust said. “Twenty percent of applicants weren’t able to sign up with Lyft because they didn’t have a car.”
In return for access to a car, drivers in Chicago had to pay $99 per week, plus $0.20 for every mile driven outside of Lyft rides. However, drivers who picked up 40 fares in a week had the per-mile fee waived, and those who managed 65 rides (about 13 every day per a five-day week) had the $99 fee erased, too.
It's unclear whether these rates will apply in the three new cities as well, but it's already clear that Lyft and Rust are thinking well beyond the short term already. Keeping the future of self-driving cars always in mind, Rust explained that the storage facilities used to house rental cars when not in service could one day be used as staging areas for coming-and-going autonomous Lyft vehicles responding to customers' requests.
“Many of the operational details of where the cars are stored, how are they maintained, how are they paid for — all of that is very applicable in the autonomous world,” Rust said. “Things like how to enable drivers to get quick access to cars without owning them.”