Rideshare, one of our favorite topics here at The Zebra, has (in a word) exploded. According to a recent report by Intuit, it has officially solidified itself as an integral part of the independent workforce — another recent asset to overall economic growth in developed countries. As one of the first sectors in this new gig economy, the rideshare industry has witnessed a tremendous amount of social, technological, and legal change. Whether you are a driver or rider, you’ve undoubtedly been affected by this upheaval in some way.
Rideshare enabled one man to make an abrupt (and positive) change away from engineering, to pioneering a trail for other drivers and riders to follow. We’ve worked with this man, Harry Campbell of TheRideShareGuy.com, many times before and we couldn’t be more delighted to announce his new book, The Rideshare Guide, available now.
The Zebra was fortunate enough to speak with Campbell about his four-year crash course through the ups and downs of the rideshare industry. Covering everything from five-star ratings to proper tipping etiquette, Campbell has used his considerable experience to help everyone within the industry navigate their own success. If you’ve ever been confused about how rideshare fares are calculated, or the best times to drive, you might want to consider buying a copy.
But, really, his success speaks for itself.
The Zebra: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. You’ve been featured on the Huffington Post, WIRED, and the New York Times. What has your success taught you about the overall industry of rideshare? Of the on-demand economy? Of the gig economy?
Harry Campbell: Overall, I think one thing I’ve learned is that people really want flexibility in their lives. It’s something many Americans don’t have but crave. If there’s one thing I’ve learned talking to thousands of drivers over the years, it’s that many are willing to give up a bit of security for the flexibility and freedom of the gig economy. It allows many drivers to work part-time, supplementing retirement income, or allows students to make extra money on their free time during the summers, or after class. It allows parents to be home for their kids when they want to be.
Of course, it’s not this magical, wonderful thing for everyone. Some drivers I’ve spoken with would prefer some security, like paid wages for sick or vacation time off, or subsidized health insurance. But overall, I think there’s still a lot of opportunity for the gig economy to develop into something that befits the 21st century and peoples’ desire for work flexibility.
TZ: You’ve got quite a serious resume when it comes to the rideshare industry. You started TheRideShareguy.com in 2014. What has changed in the industry since then? What has surprised you about this change?
HC: That’s a great question — there has been a ton of change in the rideshare industry since 2014. Local governments are finally starting to regulate rideshare driving, although every city seems to be doing it a little differently. The industry has diversified since 2014 in terms of what they offer; Uber and Lyft have introduced UberPOOL and Lyft Line respectively, which somewhat treats a driver’s car like a mini-bus, picking up strangers around the city and dropping them off according to closest destination. This would have been unheard of in 2014.
TZ: Since you’re the expert, let’s look at the finer points of the gig economy, even those outside of rideshare. Why has there been no definite leader for on-demand food delivery services, i.e. Postmates, UberEats, GrubHub, etc.?
HC: It seems to me that on-demand food delivery is still hyper-local. There are so many competing companies, and some companies only work in certain markets — and yet are more popular than, say, UberEATS. Also, there’s not as much profit to be made with food delivery given restaurants’ small margins, so that could be another reason why it hasn’t gained in popularity. Finally, there may be a psychological affect in many smaller cities (i.e., not New York City or San Francisco) that people just want to “go out” for their food. Although we’ll see how/if that changes with Millennials and Gen Z!
TZ: What other industries do you think are ripe for an on-demand overhaul?
HC: Health care is probably one of the most exciting industries ripe for on-demand overhaul. It seems pretty antiquated that you’re tied to a certain provider at a certain location just because of the health insurance you have. I’m excited that tele-medicine is becoming more popular; it’s touted as being helpful for those living in rural communities, but it’s also incredibly helpful for people living in big cities. Who wants to take their child to the emergency room and spend hours waiting to see a doctor for a sprained arm? Who wants to drive to the doctor and infect the waiting room when they’re laid out with the flu? Much better to call a doctor and talk or see them over the phone — where, for certain conditions, they can diagnose you and call in prescriptions right there.
In California, there’s already a company called Heal making house calls. I’m curious to see how Heal and other companies shake up the healthcare industry and how it benefits both patients and doctors.
TZ: Why do you think Uber continues to succeed as a company, despite the overwhelmingly negative press?
HC: Basically, Uber is the dominant rideshare company. More people have heard of, and therefore use, Uber. With that demand comes drivers. Being “first” in an on-demand market doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lead. Uber’s done a great job of integrating quickly into markets and becoming the dominant rideshare provider, even though Sidecar was among the first companies out there doing rideshare.
TZ: As a car insurance comparison engine, we have to ask: what makes understanding rideshare insurance so difficult?
HC: Many people are confused about when they are covered by Uber and Lyft, how they are covered, and what the process is like going through Uber and Lyft’s insurance. In addition, some people don’t know much about Uber/Lyft’s insurance, so when they get into an accident, they call their insurer first. In many cases, they don’t have specific rideshare insurance — and then their insurer drops them. It can be a real shock.
Uber and Lyft don’t make it easy to understand or, more importantly, to get a quick resolution when people get into an accident. Until then, the driver is out of a car (in some cases) and out of rideshare driving, which can be a strain financially on some drivers. It’s not something people expect when they get into rideshare driving.
TZ: The latest buzz about new car technology is, of course, the advent of self-driving cars. Clearly Uber, among many others, is still struggling to work through their issues. Have you heard of any companies that seems to be doing to a better job? What has contributed to their success?
HC: Several companies are doing a very good job under the radar with self-driving cars, but probably one of the best is Google’s Waymo. Google/Alphabet have spent a long time developing this technology, working with humans and systems to develop smart self-driving cars. It’s definitely not perfect yet, but the fact that they put an emphasis on testing and learning from mistakes is certainly one factor contributing to their success.
TZ: What do you think of all these companies putting out “half-baked” tech onto public roads?
HC: I’m not really sure it’s half-baked tech. Sure, Uber did disable some of the safety features on the autonomous vehicles it was testing in Arizona, but there’s also the human error element. Also, local governments have allowed these companies to put the self-driving tech on the road, because of job promises or the desire to be seen as a “tech hub” (as is the case in Arizona). There are clearly some regulation challenges to self-driving cars, but there are few industries that haven’t seen hiccups in the early stages of development.
Of course, when things like the accident in Arizona happen, I do think the cars should be taken off the road and improvements should be made. At the same time, I don’t think all companies (for example, Google’s Waymo) should be taken off the road because of another company’s serious errors.
TZ: So, would you take a ride in a self-driving car on the open road (not a parking lot test drive)?
TZ: Everyone seems to be on the brink of being the first company to revolutionize self-driving cars, but no one has taken the lead. What needs to happen before driverless car technology can be perfected?
HC: From what I’ve read, there seems to be friction between the human operators and the autonomous driving system. Self-driving cars are either still too cautious or rely too much on humans, which means they are still running into human error.
TZ: Let’s get to your fantastic new book, The Rideshare Guide. How did it come about? Why was it necessary to write this book now?
HC: I’ve been driving for Uber and Lyft for five years now and blogging about it the entire time. But four articles a week, 52 weeks a year for five years straight means that there’s a LOT of content on this site. And while a lot of the posts I wrote years ago are still pretty relevant today, they can be hard to find.
Over the years, I’ve personally talked to over 50,000 drivers by e-mail, phone, social media and in-person and learned a lot. This book is my attempt to consolidate all of that knowledge, plus my own driving experience in order to give drivers everything they need to be successful at rideshare driving.
Rideshare driving (and delivery and all the apps/tech associated with the gig economy) isn’t going away, so I thought it was necessary to write this book for people who are curious about rideshare but haven’t yet dipped their toes in, and for people who are rideshare driving right now but may not be aware of everything that goes into rideshare driving. It truly is like running a business, and many people don’t realize that.
TZ: Wow, that’s a lot of experience! But, how is this different from your other guides or resources? What can people expect?
HC: Well, this is definitely the most in-depth resource I’ve ever created. It takes all the guides I’ve made in the past, plus all the countless articles on taxes, business information, strategies and so much more and coalesces them into an easy to read book. You could find a lot of this information in the RSG archives, but the book organizes everything I’ve written, plus includes updates to reflect the current state of rideshare driving.
TZ: Your number one tip for new drivers is to ride as a passenger. What did you learn on your first ride as a passenger and how did you incorporate it into your own driving?
HC: I learned to drive like there’s a baby in your back seat. A lot of drivers forget that their passenger may not like an aggressive driving style and they should consider that.
TZ: What’s one great and one not-so-great experience you’ve had using Lyft/Uber, either as a driver or passenger?
HC: I don’t have any real horror stories, like being robbed or assaulted, but obviously when there are millions of rides every day, some bad things are bound to happen. No one has puked in my car (yet), but I do take precautions like providing vomit bags and generally just keeping an eye on people in my back seat. If you drive the party hours though, it’s bound to happen eventually.
I’d say the worst thing that has ever happened to me was just having to deal with extremely unruly passengers. I had a group of college guys once who were just over the top drunk, not wearing seatbelts, yelling at me, threatening me, etc. One of them even opened the door while we were driving down the street! It was one of my first rides and I honestly didn’t handle the situation very well, but if that were to happen again, I’d be much better prepared.
However, there are a lot of good stories to choose from but one of my favorite rides to this day was a pick-up in Los Angeles of a very elderly gentleman. His nephew had installed and setup the Uber app on his phone and it was his first ride ever, but he managed to request a car and he got me. He was pushing 80, yet very active, and we had an awesome 45-minute ride where we talked all about his life, why he was out in LA, and how Uber was already changing the way he could get around the city. It was really inspiring to hear how he planned on using Uber going forward to meet friends he hadn’t seen in a while and get around the city.
TZ: Thanks so much, Harry! Best luck with the new book and we’re looking forward to hearing your take on what’s to come from the rideshare industry.