Lyft has had it up to here with Uber reps requesting rides from its drivers only to offer them cash and phones to switch to Uber. So yesterday Lyft went on the offensive, parking a giant driver recruitment billboard outside Uber’s San Francisco Driver’s office. It says “Be More Than A Number”, urging Uber pilots to join Lyft’s merry band rather than be some expendable “private driver”.
A local tipster mentioned the billboard to me yesterday morning, and Lyft has now confirmed the campaign to me, providing this statement: “Uber has been aggressively recruiting Lyft drivers over the past several months, and we’d like to let drivers of all platforms know that they have options and invite them to learn more about the Lyft community.”
Hell, even Uber has admitted its tactics are “too aggressive” after it launched a DDOS-style attack on New York competitor Gett. Uber drivers requested Gett rides, then canceled just before the arrived, and later called trying to recruit them to drive for Uber. The company has also given out free gas cards for stopping by its office, big cash bonuses for switching away from competitors.
Uber even drove its own mobile billboard around SF with the message “Shave The ‘Stache”, in an attempt to convince Lyft drivers to ditch the iconic pink mustache they display, and earn “Real Fares, No ‘Donations'”. But Lyft parking its billboard outside the Uber driver office brings this fight to the next level.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick seemed to play right into Lyft’s strategy, though, as yesterday at Code Conference he seemed unsympathetic when discussing Uber’s willingness to one day replace its drivers with self-driving cars. “Look, this is the way the world is going. If Uber doesn’t go there, it’s not going to exist either way. This is the way of the world, and the world isn’t always great.”
According to a source of TechCrunch’s, Uber will in fact be part of Google’s self-driving car pilot program somewhere in the far future. Even if this future is years or even decades away, Kalanick makes Uber’s stance clear. Drivers are just a means to an end. That ruthless ambition has made Uber extremely efficient and better-stocked with drivers than Lyft. But from the driver’s perspective, it might feel pretty calloused.
“The reason Uber could be expensive is because you’re not just paying for the car — you’re paying for the other dude in the car” Kalanick said. When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost of taking an Uber anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle.”
Lyft hopes Uber drivers don’t just want to be the “other dude in the car” but more of a member of a peer-to-peer sharing economy community. The rideshare startup is known to organize hangouts for its drivers, and create Facebook groups for them to chat. Some drivers may enjoy the more friendly in-car atomosphere, though other may be happier not having to fist bump or chat with their passengers.
In the end, what matters most to customers may be speed of pickup and price. Though Uber might come out looking like the bad guy, its zeal and bold driver recruitment tactics may win the day. So while Lyft tried to keep its hands clean, it may have no choice but to duke it out in the mud with Uber using billboards like this.