Feb 27, 2019

The race to become the all-in-one transport app

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As new transportation options like bike and scooter rental services proliferate, ride-hailing companies are rushing to outfit their mobile apps with as many services as possible, including public transit.

Yes, but: They still have to compete with Google Maps, the 800-pound gorilla in this realm —which is also their business partner.

"Just like Amazon sells third-party goods, we are going to also offer third-party transportation services," Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said last year. "So we wanna kinda be the Amazon for transportation."

For years, both Uber's and Lyft's U.S. apps offered only their various car ride services.

  • Over the years, the companies gradually added more options, including higher-end ride services as well as carpooling.
  • They also experimented with special discounts and drop-off locations for riders heading to major public transit hubs.

With the boom in bike and scooter rentals last year, both companies started adding new transportation options to their apps.

  • In February 2018, Uber inked a partnership with JUMP in San Francisco and made its electric bike rentals available to some customers via its app.
  • Shortly after, Uber acquired JUMP, announced it would add scooters to its arsenal, and even inked a partnership with Lime to include its scooters in its own app in some cities.
  • Meanwhile, Lyft acquired bike-sharing operator Motivate and has begun to roll out Lyft-branded scooters in a small number of cities. (At one point, Lyft was also exploring a partnership with scooter startup Spin, as Axios reported.)
  • Uber has also experimented with car rentals via a partnership with startup Getaround, though it recently suspended a pilot rental service for Uber riders. It continues to offer rentals to Uber drivers who need a car.
  • In September, Lyft started adding public transit information in its app, now available in a handful of cities, while Uber made its first foray last month, starting with Denver.

The big picture: Expanding their apps' services only makes these companies' relationships with Google Maps more complicated.

  • Despite strongly prohibiting third parties from creating "aggregator" apps that display both companies' services side by side, both Uber and Lyft have long made an exception for Google Maps. For years now, Google Maps users have been able to see Uber and Lyft rides in the app with routes, get approximate fares and hail a ride via the respective apps.
  • Last year, Google also inked a partnership with Lime to make its bike and scooter rentals available as a transportation option to users in some cities.
  • And of course, Google Maps has long made it possible for users to plan a route via public transit and even compare it to alternatives like driving and walking.
  • All this has made Google Maps the original all-in-one transportation planning app.

Payments for transportation also remain a tricky area.

  • A year ago Uber inked a partnership with Masabi, which handles ticket payments for 30 public transit agencies, but has yet to make that available. (The company says that's coming soon — first in Denver, where it integrated transit data.)
  • In 2017 Google Maps announced it would provide the ability to book and pay for an Uber ride via its own app, but the short-lived experiment ended the next year. A separate app for Android, Google Pay, does let users pay for some local transit services.
  • Meanwhile, some smaller players, like transportation apps Transit and Citymapper, have been able to make inroads in local transit purchases.

The bottom line: Uber and Lyft have an opportunity to broaden their apps' value by integrating more information and services with them. But they'll have to improve fast to best Google and persuade users that their apps are good for more than summoning a car.

Go deeper

Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

Italy’s aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori fly over Milan in Duomo Square on May 25. Photo: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,453,784 — Total deaths: 345,886 — Total recoveries — 2,191,310Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,651,254 — Total deaths: 97,850 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Top Boris Johnson aide defends himself after allegations he broke U.K. lockdown — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

Why it matters: Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, has taken the unprecedented step of campaigning from his home during the coronavirus pandemic, ever since canceling a rally in Cleveland on March 10.