While Uber’s multi-month string of bad news continues, its ride-hailing competitor Lyft has doubled down on trying to be everything Uber is not. While Uber was accused of scabbing amid travel-ban protests at JFK Airport, Lyft pledged to donate a million dollars to the ACLU. While Uber is dealing with a video of CEO Travis Kalanick yelling at a driver and a newly surfaced HR report involving Kalanick and several Uber staffers at an escort bar, Lyft announced a new initiative to let riders round up their fare totals and donate the difference to charity. In a word — one used repeatedly by Lyft’s president, John Zimmer, with Time — Lyft is “woke.”
“We’re woke. Our community is woke, and the U.S. population is woke,” Zimmer told Time. “There’s an awakening … Our vote matters, our choice matters, the seat we take matters.” In February, Kalanick announced he’d be removing himself from his seat on Trump’s advisory council. Lyft does not have a representative on the council. (Though, that may have less to do with making a statement and more to do with not being invited.) “We’re not the nice guys,” Zimmer also told Time. “We’re a better boyfriend.” Sure. If you consider a company backed by “Trump’s Tech Pal,” Peter Thiel, a better boyfriend.
Despite all its wokeness — over-under on how long until Lyft snaps up Matt McGorry for an ad campaign — Lyft still has some big hurdles to hop if it hopes to ever beat Uber. Lyft, as pointed out earlier this month by Recode, isn’t as well known outside of the streets of San Francisco. When people think ride-hailing, they think Uber. There’s a reason it’s called the “Uber for X” economy, and not the “Lyft for X” economy. For all of Uber’s terrible press (and there have been loads), Lyft is going to have to do a lot more than repeatedly label itself with a 2017 buzzword to get riders, and more importantly drivers, to ditch Uber for Lyft for good.