Uber and Lyft make plans to add electric scooters to their current fleet.
While trendy startups that offer services to the public like ride sharing and accommodations are gaining ground in the current gig economy, there’s little doubt that they’re also changing the consumer landscape in ways that may not always be best.
Uber and Lyft, for example, have already been associated with a reduction in mass transit use. The ability to poke an app and hail your own personal car service while paying through your account means users who might have opted for a bus or train rather than a taxi are happily summoning rides; this has already equated to more car trips in some major cities as riders opt for convenience and drivers look to earn more money.
So how do Uber and Lyft continue a goldmine-moneymaker without increasing carbon emissions?
It turns out that electric scooters might be useful…and you don’t have to pay a driver, either.
Both companies have applied for the necessary permits in San Francisco to operate bike sharing branches of their business, and have now added electric scooters (think Razor scooters with a rechargeable battery, not Vespa scooters). The city cracked down on scooter share startups by enacting an ordinance that would require all startups to remove their scooters earlier this month, with a provision that they could also apply for a permit to operate the business.
According to a report by Shannon Liao for The Verge, Uber already owns the necessary bikes through its purchase of an existing bike share startup, while Lyft – which owns no bikes or scooters – has applied for the permits. That hesitation to purchase expensive overhead is a fairly safe move considering the city’s announcement that only five startups will be granted permits in this year-long trial period. Apparently, scooter startups were the hot cash cow at the time, which prompted the city to take action or be overrun.
Fortunately or not, there’s an excellent chance that Uber and Lyft will be frontrunners for the permits, meaning only three spots would remain for other companies to try to establish legal scooter sharing businesses. The door may be open for both companies to buy up equipment from companies that don’t make the cut, rebranding their stations and machines while also helping them recoup some of their losses from investment in their scooters. The announcement will be made at the end of this month as to who receives those permits.