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Lyft pushes its "ethical values" vs Uber

Lyft co-founder John Zimmer. Photo: John Sciulli/Getty Images for Lyft

Lyft provided free rides to students attending March for Our Lives rallies last weekend and, according to co-founder John Zimmer, is trying to figure out how to address issues of racial equality after Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed black man, was fatally shot by police last week. “We want to figure out how to use what we do to help effect change,” Zimmer told a group of reporters in Washington yesterday.

Why it matters: Lyft sees this as a moment to highlight "having obvious ethical values" as a ride-hailing company vs Uber. In yesterday's gathering with reporters, Zimmer was joined by former Obama White House official Valerie Jarrett, now a Lyft board member, and the two repeatedly highlighted the company’s commitment to equal pay, safe work environments, and continued activism to “protect our community.”

Lyft will continue to take sides on certain issues, like gun violence, and gender and racial equity, Zimmer said: "If we disagree with the policy we're going to be transparent about it and we're going to explain why."

Jarret discussed her decision to join the company in the context of its culture against sexual harassment. "You learn more when the bosses aren't in the room than when they are in the room, and I think that reflects the overall culture," she said.

But, but, but... Zimmer was also certain to note of Lyft: “We are not an activist organization.”

Bottom line: Lyft is probably more like Uber than they care to admit. They share a business model and a fixation on autonomous cars and reshaping transportation markets. Zimmer said the recent Uber accident would be a tragedy if it delayed autonomous vehicles by even one day; "that could be 100 people's lives that are at risk," he said.