I was in San Jose, California for the annual Worldwide Developers’ Conference last week as Apple unveiled and updated their lineup of hardware and software as thousands of developers and media converged into the event venue.
Of course, I wasn’t going to be cooped up within the San Jose Convention Center the entire day, so it came as an opportune moment to try out some ride hailing options to get around in the city
Uber First, Then Lyft
Before we go into the ride itself, let’s have a look at the ride options available in the app.
In Singapore, you might be familiar with the usuals – uberPOOL, UberX, UberXL, UberExec and ExecLarge.
Uber Singapore also recently launched CAR SEAT, for parents to select rides that they can take their young children with.
It is largely the same in the US, just that Exec is known as Black outside of Singapore, and there’s the addition of UberSELECT (a slightly higher-end UberX), uberWAV (Wheelchair-accessible vehicles), and uberASSIST (where drivers are specially trained to assist seniors and people with disabilities).
When I booked a ride, I got matched to a nearby driver almost immediately. And every time I was in an Uber, it became pretty clear why the service made so much sense, especially in the US.
Those of us residing in major cities in Asia will have probably been spoiled by the convenience that public transportation gives us when travelling from point to point.
Considering what little free time that I had between sessions at WWDC, Uber is the more convenient – albeit more expensive, means for me to explore a bit of the city.
Traversing the many highways that connect the different parts of San Jose is also better done in a car, and it saves a lot of traveling time.
When riding an Uber here, I also felt that it has become a way of life for Americans, much more so than in Singapore.
From the drivers whom I spoke to, to the guy at the Uber booth scouting for new drivers in a mall I was in, I get the sense that people here are very much well invested into the entire Uber ecosystem, regardless of whether or not they are doing this full-time or on the side.
For good measure, I also took the chance to grab a bite through UberEATS for the highly-acclaimed food by The Halal Guys.
UberEats is useful in a way that if you don’t know locals in town, you can just boot up the app and use it as a directory of nearby restaurants.
Getting A Lyft
Where Grab is Uber’s Rival in Singapore and Southeast Asia, Lyft plays that role in the USA.
In fact Grab and Lyft even had a partnership which allows their respective users to book rides from their native apps when they travel.
That was the first thing that came to mind when I was in San Jose, but sadly, I guess I’m not in a city where this is available.
The user interface for Lyft is somewhat different to what I’m used to on Uber, and I can see where Grab has gotten inspiration from for their latest UI overhaul.
Like Uber, Lyft also has a selection of rides that you can opt for, with the most used ones being Line (carpooling) and Lyft (like UberX). The rest is pretty much self explanatory, offering either larger or higher end rides – or both.
One defining feature for Lyft is the coloured lamp that some of the drivers have.
With it, you can simply look out for a Lyft logo through the windscreen that is lighted up the same colour as in your app – which in most cases is green.
On the few Lyft rides I took, it really does feel like riding in a Grab.
The drivers tend to be of the older demographic, and are fiercely loyal to their company of choice, with one driver describing Lyft as ethical and compassionate.
Also, the drivers I encountered also tend to be more inquisitive as well, striking up conversations during the ride, and getting to know more about Singapore after telling them where I’m from.
Another differentiating factor that Lyft has is their tipping system after a ride.
Typically when you get off the car, you will then be prompted to rate your drivers and input your feedback – but Lyft takes this a step forward by letting you tip the drivers if you feel they’ve been exceptional.
A Consistent Experience Wherever You Are
After having tried Uber in a few countries, it’s safe to say that the company’s drive to give a unified experience for riders and drivers anywhere around the world is working.
It is also good news that rivals like Lyft are also stepping up to match, or even better that experience to vie for riders’ attention.
With Lyft too receiving a recent US$25 million investment from Jaguar Land Rover into the company, fuelling in its own bid to push for their own self-driving cars, they are quietly but surely closing the gap on Uber.
While Uber is valued at 10 times as much, Lyft’s US$7 billion valuation isn’t there just for show.
I’m looking forward to see what Lyft has in store the next time I’m stateside.