Reuters

The fight to create a faster, more convenient car-share.

Which taxi alternative will dominate cities of the future may come down to who develops the best software. Right now, Lyft and Uber are two sides of the same ride-sharing coin: Lyft brands itself as a "sharing" experience, reminding its users that their driver is just an average Joe with time to drive you around for money. They’re essentially cab drivers, but they obey instructions from the cloud instead of a human dispatcher, and can work as they please. Uber focuses on the ride itself—the convenient and even luxurious experience of getting a car and driver exactly when you want them.

But as Marcus Wohlsen points out in Wired, the technology behind the apps is key to the services' success, and it needs to improve. People use Uber and Lyft because they’re convenient, and whichever service can offer even more convenience—faster service, that is—will probably win favor in more cities than the one that lags.

Lyft's new VP of data science, Chris Pouliot, previously led the data analysis team at Netflix, which is known for utilizing the heck out of its user data. He's got big plans for Lyft, too. "We can use data to provide more accurate [estimated times of arrival] when a passenger requests a ride, to set high expectations and provide a better user experience," Pouliot told VentureBeat in December. "The success or failure of the business is highly correlated to how the company uses data." He also hopes to make an algorithm that predicts the likelihood that someone nearby will need a car in the next three minutes. That way, each individual is sent a ride that’s convenient for them as well as the entire user base. The drivers-as-friends shtick might get a software boost, too: Pouliot imagines that a Facebook connection could tell passengers about interests they have in common with their driver.

Uber has a current job listing for a "leading data scientist," so it could be that they're still trying to get their own Pouliot-level analytics whiz.

This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A sign outside a storefront in Buffalo, New York.
    Environment

    Will Buffalo Become a Climate Change Haven?

    The Western New York city possesses a distinct mix of weather, geography, and infrastructure that could make it a potential climate haven. But for whom?

  2. photo: A vacant home in Oakland that is about to demolished for an apartment complex.
    Equity

    Fix California's Housing Crisis, Activists Say. But Which One?

    As a controversy over unoccupied homes in the Bay Area and Los Angeles reveals, advocates disagree about what kind of housing should be built, and where.

  3. photo: a high-speed train in Switzerland
    Transportation

    The Case for Portland-to-Vancouver High-Speed Rail

    At the Cascadia Rail Summit outside Seattle, a fledgling scheme to bring high-speed rail from Portland to Vancouver found an enthusiastic reception.

  4. A syringe sits on top of a car. Houses are behind it.
    Life

    The Changing Geography of the Opioid Crisis

    A new study shows that the country faces different opioid challenges in urban and rural areas.

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×