Recently I had the honor of being interviewed on CGTN America in a segment about rideshare and taxis in NYC. It was an interesting discussion geared toward the general audience (so not rideshare pros) but a good opportunity to talk about rideshare from our perspective.
Here’s a clip from the interview, and if you’d like to read, I transcribed the interview and posted it below.
CGTN: Well, let’s take a deeper look at the competition between taxis and ridesharing services. We’re joined now by Harry Campbell, otherwise known as The Rideshare Guy. He was a Boeing engineer who gave it all up to first become a rideshare driver and now he’s helping others who want to do the same with his book, “The Rideshare Guide.” Harry, this may seem obvious, but I’m desperate to ask you. Did you take an Uber to the studio there or Lyft? How did you …
Harry Campbell: Well, I drove myself, so I guess you could say that I was the Uber driver.
CGTN: You didn’t take a passenger on the way or maybe you did?
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Harry Campbell: No, I didn’t have quite enough time, but there is a future that allows you to do that, so I might do that on the ride home.
CGTN: Let me get your take first of all, Harry. The decision by the authorities in New York to cap ridesharing services such as Lyft and Uber. It seems to me a bit of a middle ground. Something of a compromise when you think that some cities around the world have just banned these services outright. What’s your take on it?
Harry Campbell: Yeah. I think you summed it up well. You can tell that in this situation, the New York City regulators have the right intentions. They’re looking at across the landscape and they’re seeing that traffic has gotten worse. I think that as someone who’s driven for Uber and Lyft, it doesn’t take more than a night or two of driving to realize how much you’re sitting around waiting for passengers. Driving around, putting unnecessary miles on your car, which are definitely going to hurt congestion.
I think at the same time, the way that they go about implementing these new regulations, I don’t think they’re going to do much to help with congestion. I think the minimum wage requirements will definitely help drivers. You can sort of see that they got some of it right, they got some of it wrong. Uber isn’t going to be pulling out of New York City anytime soon, but they’re also not super happy about it.
CGTN: It seems to me one of the arguments is that this will drive prices higher, but that’s going to be good for people like you in a city like New York, right?
Harry Campbell: Yeah. You’re always going to have a little bit of contention between the Uber and Lyft drivers themselves and the companies. As a driver, I really want as few drivers out on the road as possible. That means that I have more chances to get a request and more opportunities to get surge pricing and higher prices. Whereas Uber and Lyft really want the opposite. I think that’s where a lot of the tension between drivers and taxis and the rideshare companies themselves have really … A lot of that stems from that kind of anti-behavior.
CGTN: Explain that for me, Harry. For people that aren’t familiar, you’re saying that Lyft and Uber will benefit from, as you say, price surging. Whereas traditional taxis, that’s not really in their business model.
Harry Campbell: Uber and Lyft, the companies themselves, they don’t necessarily benefit from surge pricing. When you as a passenger, when you open the Uber app or you open the Lyft app, they want you as a consumer to see that there’s a car available within two to three minutes, no surge pricing. It’s a nice cheap ride. It’s very reliable. Whereas drivers sometimes they want ride requests. They want surge pricing because they make more on those rides.
You can sort of see how a cap on the number of drivers would help drivers, because that means now I have a better chance of getting a ride and Uber and Lyft argue that it hurts them because now they have less drivers available to serve what’s looked like over the past few years an ever increasing demand.
CGTN: Just briefly Harry, where do you see the future of this going? As we mentioned some cities banning ridesharing. New York is capping. Where do you see all this going?
Harry Campbell: I think banning it outright is really sort of a move that doesn’t make a lot of sense for consumers and drivers and really everyone everywhere. I think protecting industries that have not traditionally done a great job of serving the consumer is never going to work out well in the long run.
I do think that I appreciate the spirit of New York City’s approach because they’re looking at it from the driver’s perspective and saying that, “Hey, there are a lot of full time drivers. A majority of drivers in New York City are full time unlike other UberX cities in the United States. A lot of them are getting to the point where they’re sitting around waiting for rides. They’re not making as much as they used to and they have much higher cost.”
I think some regulations, some smart regulation that is similar to what New York is implementing could definitely help with the driver issue. I don’t think it will do much for congestion though.
CGTN: You read my mind there, Harry. When these services first came out four, five years ago, it seemed easy to just start driving for companies like Uber. One figure I read on your website fascinated me. I think if I read this correctly, two million Uber drivers, but half will quit after a year. It perhaps not as easy as it seems.
Harry Campbell: Yeah. Uber actually just released some newer data that they say the numbers have gotten worse. They say that two-thirds of all drivers are now quitting after just six months. I think in New York where there’s more full time drivers, they might stick it out a little bit longer, but I think that’s typically what we see.
A lot of people get into driving for Uber and Lyft as a way to make a few hundred extra dollars a week, but they start to realize that it is. It’s not rocket science, but it is the ultimate combination of customer service dealing with customers. Running your own business and also safe driving and navigation. It’s a little tougher than it looks basically.
CGTN: One final question for you, Harry and I appreciate you can’t defend the whole industry, but I hear this common complaint now here in Washington DC, another city, that a lot of drivers just simply don’t know the places they’re driving around, that they come into these places like DC and other US cities and they simply don’t know where they’re going. What’s your response to that?
Harry Campbell: Yeah. I think that, that’s definitely a valid complain and one of the reasons why you hear from some consumers. Some of the more forward thinking taxi companies that have implemented apps and you can now call a ride for example in San Francisco with the taxi with the Flywheel app and you get sort of the best of both worlds. Drivers who are very knowledgeable, who know the city, but you can also pay with credit card. I think that this is a valid complaint for Uber unfortunately because of the independent contractor nature.
Really, just that Uber and Lyft haven’t made training a high priority. A lot of drivers are very reliant on GPS and navigation and they don’t think about the basics like north and south and east and west and which way freeways run. I think any training component that comes out in the future … I mean this is really what my business is predicated on is helping drivers with some of these more basic issues where they may not be getting support from the companies, and maybe third-parties that need to come in and help train these drivers and help them become better at navigating and doing all the basics of what it takes to be a really good taxi or a rideshare driver.
CGTN: I think maybe being able to read a compass would be a good start. That’s a big surprise. Harry, thanks so much for talking to us. That was Harry Campbell, otherwise known as The Rideshare Guy. Thank you.
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