Uber and Lyft: A Tale of Two Companies

After years of resisting efforts by cities to regulate their business and constant—but unprofitable—growth, Uber and Lyft are homing in on their unique strengths.

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February 15, 2022, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Baltimore Bikeshare

Courtesy of Lyft and the City of Baltimore / via Modern Cities

Despite small differences in their operations and business models, Uber and Lyft have essentially operated as interchangeable services for most customers for years. Now, writes Andrew J. Hawkins, the two transportation network companies (TNCs) are starting to differentiate themselves by centering their operations on each company's specific strengths, as evidenced by earnings reports issued last week by both TNCs.

"Uber’s main side hustle is delivery. Food and other delivery bookings in the fourth quarter grew 33 percent year over year." Meanwhile, Lyft president John Zimmer says his company has no plans to follow suit. "We want to have one main consumer that we’re building for. And again, we will not build a consumer-facing marketplace for groceries or food," Zimmer said. But Lyft has bolstered the micromobility side of its business, reports Hawkins, with bikeshare as its fastest-growing customer base, while Uber has "largely abandoned its two-wheeled operations." 

Hawkins notes that, while both companies expressed enthusiasm about autonomous vehicles, both largely sold off their AV divisions, with Lyft still maintaining some ties through a deal with Argo.ai to put its vehicles on Lyft's platform.

The two rideshare giants continue to compete and face some of the same challenges, but, as Hawkins puts it, their recent earnings reports show that the two may take more different paths in the future.

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