Lyft and General Motors broadcasted Express Drive, a new short term car rental program just for the Lyft drivers, earlier this week.
The program is happening in Chicago and will let drivers order cars for $99 a week, the insurance and maintenance are included, a surcharge of $0.20 per mile is added. To make the deal more appealing, Lyft is repaying the mileage fee for drivers who complete over 40 rides per week, and is also covering the $99 payment for those who reach more than 65 rides a week.
Express Dive appears like it is a response to a car-rental program that Uber debuted with Enterprises back in December. General Motors are still making some arrangements with third parties to support Express Drive.The base cost on Uber’s rental is higher, at $210 per week, however, drivers get unlimited mileage.
Together Uber and Lyft say these leasing programs are intended to open up their platforms to individuals who might be interested to try driving for a ride-hailing company, however, don’t have access to the right kind of car.
“Last year in Chicago alone, 60,000 people applied to drive with Lyft but didn’t have a qualifying car,” Lyft explains on its blog. “Express Drive solves this problem.”
However, there’s a 2nd goal of the program, one that will eventually make those drivers outdated.
Express Drive is part of Maven, a Zipcar-esque service that General Motors presented in late January in its bids to join the “sharing” economy. By building out rental centers for Lyft drivers now, General Motors is laying the foundation for Maven to finally support a network of self-driving cars, likely on the Lyft platform. Like the cars it’s leasing to Lyft drivers, driverless ones will require to be serviced and stored somewhere, supposing they’re not always in use. Express Drive is basically a dry run for our driverless future, but right now, humans are a key part of the testing procedure.
“The real benefit for Maven is the infrastructure,” says Annalisa Bluhm, a GM spokeswoman. “When we move toward autonomous fleets, which is the goal, those cars need to go somewhere. Someone needs to maintain those cars, someone needs to be responsible from a fleet-management perspective. So all of this is allowing us to move toward that.”
General Motors interest in building out a fleet of self-driving cars is nothing different. The automaker invested $500 million in Lyft, in early January, as part of a “strategic alliance to create an integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles in the US.” That was also when General Motors and Lyft first broadcasted their plan to offer temporary car rentals to Lyft drivers, even though without any specifics.
Ever since then, General Motors have purchased the remains of Sidecar, a former Uber competitor, and bought up Cruise, a startup that improves self-driving technologies for cars. On March 15, Mike Ableson, General Motors vice president of strategy and global portfolio planning, stated at a Senate Commerce hearing that the company could bring self-driving cars to Lyft’s service in a couple of years, however, to begin with people behind the wheel.
“We would introduce it originally as vehicles with drivers, because we do agree we need to collect data and make sure the systems are operating as we expect them to before we actually start deploying the vehicles without drivers,” Ableson said. “We think this offers a framework that we can develop and deploy this technology in a very safe way, ” he added.
All of that puts something of a discouragement on the short-term rental program being advertised to drivers now. If General Motors vision pans out, Express Drive could also demonstrate short-term.
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