In an effort to spur communication and a more ecologically-friendly transportation system, some of the fiercest rivals in the ridesharing industry are joining forces. 

Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase is spearheading an initiative to promote a unified framework for the future of mobility and the impending arrival of autonomous vehicles. Today, 15 leading transport and tech companies have pledged to abide by her 10 "shared mobility principles for livable cities"--including competitors  Uber, Lyft, and Beijing-based Didi Chuxing. Together, these companies are responsible for 77 million passenger trips per day.

"I joke that transportation is the center of the universe," says Chase, "but it is actually true. Transportation is the key to whether you can get a job, or go to school, or see your friends. [It] is the gate to opportunity."

The principles--conceived by Chase and a league of academics, researchers, and city and transport organizations--outline a set of rules that ensure the goals of businesses, city governments, and NGOs remain aligned. She first revealed them last October. 

Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, Motivate, Ofo, Via, and nine other companies are now bound to "prioritize people over vehicles," "support fair user fees," and "open" and share their data, to name a few. 

Of course, it is one thing to share trip and user insights with city and government officials (Uber and Lyft already do it). That helps you leverage your company's usefulness and gain favor with regulators to further your goals--be it entering new markets or pushing beneficial legislation. But what, you may wonder, could possess business adversaries to commit to share crucial data with one another? 

Self-preservationAs of 2016, 87 percent of all U.S. households owned at least one vehicle. That staggering number likely explains why personal vehicles remain the No. 1 transportation mode for most Americans, even when it has been proven that cars are parked 95 percent of the time

Another compelling reason to work together is that Chase's coalition already counts major metro cities across the globe among its allies. That is certainly an attractive incentive for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, which have been kicked out of promising markets before (Uber's license to operate in London was revoked just a few months ago).

Of course, you should also consider the race to bring autonomous vehicles to the public. Principle No. 10 reads: "We support that autonomous vehicles in dense urban areas should be operated only in shared fleets."

Lyft has already made progress with its "open platform," securing five high profile partnerships with major automakers and autonomous tech companies, like Google's Waymo and nuTonomy, to offer self-driving rides to willing users. Uber has been piloting its autonomous technology in cities like Pittsburgh and San Francisco for over a year now. 

It's important to remember this is only a starting point, suggests Chase. The principles offer a foundation in which cities, businesses, and nonprofits can build on with proper regulations and policing systems. The coalition also needs to persuade more actors to come together--automakers like Ford and General Motors, for example.

There's also no guarantee that these companies will stick to the principles. But maybe they should. After all, wasn't it Henry Ford who said, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." 

How Lyft Handles Fierce Competition and Heavy Regulation
Published on: Feb 1, 2018