I have undertaken a part time job as a rideshare driver.  I have a good car and the hours are flexible enough to not interfere with the demands of my real job.  This is not news, as I’m not the only one to discover this opportunity, however, I may be the only one also using this as an opportunity to go ‘undercover’ and learn about driver needs in rideshare and how the connected car has the potential to enhance their businesses.

I am also one of the co-founders of Carvoyant.  Our company’s service enables any business to engage with connected cars without having to invest in the infrastructure to support the data flow.  Carvoyant offers an API that enables our clients to take the data previously locked in vehicles and create any application that result in their clients saving time or money, an app that helps consumers or one that provides greater insight to the billions spent in automotive ownership.  Our clients range from auto insurers, to auto dealers and smart home companies, as well as marketers and independent developers creating connected car applications.  Additionally, our prospect list includes rideshare firms.

We have offices in Tampa, where I am based, and both Uber and Lyft have created nice market awareness so I have signed up to drive for both companies.  Clearly, their marketing and capital resources are focused on rider acquisition which ends up pulling drivers, like me, out of the woodwork to meet the demand.  From a connected car perspective I have some interesting insight to share.

For the moment the UX for riders is powered by the GPS offered from the driver’s phone – ie, knowing where the vehicle is in relation to picking up the rider.  I don’t see replacing that with the connected car in the near term – but certainly opportunities to supplement that data flow with vehicle specific data exist.

The first benefit a connected car brings to rideshare is crash detection notification.  Imagine Uber or Lyft receiving a notification the moment I rear end someone, scratch that, the moment someone rear ends me.  Now how about Uber or Lyft calling both my phone AND the rider to ensure both are OK and help orchestrate whatever kind of support is needed.  Wow, would I be loyal a driver, and you better believe the rider would be as well!

Secondly, I find many drivers really don’t understand what it cost for them to be driving.  They fill up their gas tank and drive while celebrating their payments for transporting passengers.  Meanwhile, a connected car tracks actual fuel flow rate over a defined period of time allowing a driver to be more aware, and intelligent, about their fuel usage while on the clock – including the miles driven to get riders and finding riders.

Thirdly, a connected car has the potential to save insurance premiums for both the rideshare firm and the driver.  The idea is to monitor a driver’s driving behavior such as hard stops, hard starts, cornering, etc to determine a risk profile.  This is how Usage Based Insurance is underwritten and it requires a vehicle to be connected.  Once the vehicle is connected and the driver agrees to share their driving data with an insurer the firm providing the commercial policy to the driver through the rideshare firm could more accurately price the policy potentially saving money for the rideshare firm.  The same could be true of the consumer policy covering the driver and vehicle while not being used for rideshare.

The fourth area of interest for enhancing driver engagement through a connected car is offering service maintenance support.  A connected car will track the number of miles driven dictating the time for routine maintenance but also put insight into why a check engine light is lit.  Because a rideshare firm has such a broad driver base they could help drivers get better pricing on service enabling better vehicles stay on the road for riders while drivers maintain their vehicles in optimal condition.  Shoot, I bet with the right deal negotiated the rideshare firm could even make a small commission for each vehicle they put in a service bay somewhere!

Last thought, for now, and certainly not least is encouraging eco driving.  This kind of goes back to understanding the fuel flow rate and how much fuel was used while driving.  I think it would be cool if a rideshare company would categorize vehicles, then have similar vehicles compete for a ‘green driver of the day’ award.  This would teach drivers to accelerate softer, coast into a stop or red light and even turn the engine off while waiting for the next passenger to ping them.  This further reinforces good driver behavior bringing insurance rates lower.  Oh the fun the rideshare community could have with this data!

While rider acquisition is the focus over the next multiple months, I see a real need for a rideshare firm to keep drivers more engaged with their platform.  Within the rideshare underworld I have learned that, in a community like Tampa where there are only two rideshare platforms to engage, most drivers sign up for both.  Here’s the rub for the rideshare firm; with a driver engaged in both apps, one app is consistently losing to the other, therefore, leaving riders without enough drivers.  If a rideshare firm could offer additional value to drivers the drivers may not engage more than the one app and be available to riders for the maximum amount of time.  Here in is the opportunity for the connected car to solve a burgeoning point of pain for rideshare firms while bringing all the features I just rattled off earlier.