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Lyft Co-Founder Shares His Vision For The Future Of Ride-Sharing

Lyft co-founder John Zimmer attends the Lyft driver rally at Siren Studios on January 27, 2015 in Hollywood, California.  (John Sciulli/Getty Images for Lyft)
Lyft co-founder John Zimmer attends the Lyft driver rally at Siren Studios on January 27, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (John Sciulli/Getty Images for Lyft)

In this week’s View from the Top conversation, Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson speaks with John Zimmer, the co-founder and president of ride-sharing company Lyft. They discuss how Lyft differentiates itself from Uber, the kind of regulation that ride-hailing apps should have and Lyft’s plans for expansion.

Interview Highlights: John Zimmer

What is Lyft and how does it differ from Uber?

“So, Lyft is the fastest growing on-demand transportation service in the United States. It’s as easy as opening the Lyft app, clicking a button and a driver arrives within minutes. I think the two biggest areas of difference are, one, our mission. My co-founder and I have been working on this project for nine years now. We’ve always wanted to bring people together through transportation and I think the way that’s felt for the customers is we treat you better. Drivers can earn tips, drivers can earn driving bonuses and, by treating drivers better, drivers provide passengers with a better experience.”

What do you say to people who still think that you don’t have regulations that are up to the same standards as taxi drivers?

“I would argue that they look at the facts. We have done scenarios where we’ve run a set of drivers through the local taxi regulations and through ours and hundreds, if not thousands, of drivers passed through their screening process and were unable to get through ours. One thing is having the right set of data, and the other thing is having strict criteria. On both those we’re very confident that we’re taking the right steps. Safety is a top priority.”

What about the issue of driver classification? Both Lyft and Uber say their drivers are contractors rather than employees.

“I think we’re really excited to be part of the conversation, not only on the future of transportation, but the future of work. The majority, I believe it’s 80 percent, of drivers on our platform are driving less than 15 hours, and the thing that they value most is flexibility, the flexibility to drive Lyft whenever they want. That flexibility to go from this job to another job is a big reason why they work with Lyft. That said, it’s also because we’re kind of innovating in this new area, it’s on us, and we feel responsible to find the right balance of benefits that we can provide, whether that’s, you know, providing a portal to find the right health care solution, whether it’s bonuses if you are driving a significant number of hours. Those are things that we are doing to make sure that we preserve that flexibility while at the same time taking care of the people who are spending the most hours on the platform.”

Do you think a Lyft driver driving full time should get benefits?

“Historically, taxi drivers who actually drive a car that’s owned by the taxi company, who are actually required to work a certain set of hours, which is not true for us, are treated as independent contractors. So there’s a lot of precedent for that type of relationship, and so we feel that we can preserve the best amount of flexibility and additionally create a lot of value through benefits. It’s a big deal if you drive a certain number of rides that would equate to 40 hours a week on the platform. You get back all your commissions. Then, the driver can decide how they want to spend that, what we call ‘power driver bonus.'”


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