Back in my days at the University of Florida, one of my best friends invented ride-sharing services in 1993.
It is one of the most moving tales of innovation you will hear this year.
We will call this friend and visionary “Johnny Two-Scoops,” for today’s purposes, as he is a prominent figure in the Jacksonville business community who wishes to have his groundbreaking idea remain anonymous.
Early ride-sharing went like this; Johnny would walk from the bar to the 5 Star pizza just before 2 a.m. and use the pay phone out front to order a pizza to our apartment at Oxford Manor.
Johnny would wait about 10 minutes and as the driver headed out, he would ask “you got an order for Johnny Two Scoops?”
If they replied “yup” he would say “an extra fiver for you if you let me tag along as I am Johnny and I need a lift.”
All the drivers always said yes, and Johnny got his safe ride and his pizza. (Bonus, roommate Blake got his pizza too.)
Genius move. Total pioneer years ahead of his time.
Thank you JTS; it is my honor to call you a friend and to have shared in your creativity during that glorious time.
While Johnny Two Scoops was not able to monetize his innovation, Uber and other companies were. Uber launched in 2010 and last year generated over $17 billion in revenue. That totals to about 6.3 billion trips from their meal delivery and ride services. Almost 120 million people use an Uber service once a month and as of last year, they had 5 million drivers working for the service.
These numbers on their own sound like a global takeover and I personally use the service for rides and meal delivery. But the mystery of Uber is this; they have had just one profitable year so far in their history.
You might be thinking 2020 or 2021 was the profitable year due to the pandemic and an increase in food delivery.
Not so fast. The profitable year was 2018.
Each year more and more investment dollars come to the table, so even though this would not seem sustainable, it keeps happening.
It does not take Warren Buffet to know that ride-sharing services are going to get expensive eventually. Our society is too dependent on them for them to go away, so prepare for price increases.
If the lack of profitability wasn’t enough to keep the investors, board of directors and leadership of the company up at night, safety continues to be an issue for ride-sharing companies.
According to CNN, Uber’s safety data shows there were 141 rapes reported by passengers in 2020 — and 247 the year before.
Assaults on passengers are so devastating that one company in Florida took matters into its own hands.
A startup in Miami was created for women — a woman-only ride-sharing service with women-only drivers for women-only passengers.
The company “Trips 4 Women” is currently operating in Miami and surrounding areas with a team of 200 drivers.
Ride-share companies also have problems with their workforce and recent skyrocketing gas prices have only added to those woes.
A driver referenced in The New York Times went from making $200 a day to just breaking even as fuel prices went up. To be clear, ride-sharing drivers are contract workers; they are not reimbursed for expenses, like fuel. So, they make the same, while costs go up. On top of rising costs, safety issues go the other way too. Meaning, it is not just the riders who have been victims; the drivers also have been victims.
The cars used are provided by the drivers so there are no partitions separating the driver and passenger in most vehicles as you would find in an old-school taxi.
There are many barriers to overcome but there is some good news on the ride-sharing front too. Here in our state when Hurricane Ian hit the companies stepped up. Ride-sharing company Lyft has a program called, LyftUp Disaster Response and it was activated here in Florida recently. Passengers using the service could get two free rides by using a unique code (IanRelief22) for up to $15 per ride. Uber offered something similar for rides to emergency shelters for clients, up to $30 in value. These companies have become a huge part of our communities and are trying to contribute in a positive way.
From my friend in 1993 to Uber and Lyft in 2022, ride-sharing is trending upward. Despite the obvious financial and safety challenges, a study highlighted in Linchpin said that by 2030 “more than 90% of all passenger miles traveled on U.S. roads will be served by a combination of shared autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing services.”
We have certainly come a long way to standing outside the pizza place looking for our ride; I think our roads are safer because of it. By the numbers, experts say that ride-sharing has brought down alcohol-related car accidents in the 5% range.
That number may seem small unless you think clearly that we are talking about you and me who just might be alive today because some impaired driver decided to take an Uber versus driving while intoxicated. That number sounds massive with that perspective in mind, and I look forward to it climbing in the years to come.
Thank you, Johnny T. Scoops and all the innovators out there; your forward thinking has made our world a better place.
Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies; he can be reached at [email protected].