Lyft says it will spend $100 million to expand services and add retail hubs for its drivers as the ride-hailing company looks for ways to retain and attract its most important asset: humans.
Lyft will immediately double operational hours at all its current hub locations, in 15 cities across North America. This summer, the company will build new centers. These hubs are brick-and-mortar retail spaces equipped with essential amenities like clean bathrooms and communal space where drivers might meet up for coffee or educational events.
The hubs will also have help desks where drivers—who are independent—can connect with Lyft employees, as well as provide access to services like oil changes and basic maintenance at a greatly reduced price, Lyft COO Jon McNeill said Wednesday.
Lyft says there will be so-called “learning spaces” to help drivers with filing taxes or getting career support. The company didn’t provide details or specific programs beyond offering examples of how its hubs could be used.
The end goal, Lyft says, is to lower the operating cost for driving. The investment is notable, considering that Lyft drivers are not considered employees.
The investment illustrates the competition between ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber to retain and attract drivers even as these companies invest in autonomous vehicle technology that will eventually remove human from behind the wheel.
Lyft might have an eye on a future where fleets of autonomous vehicles shuttle people around. But the company is also forecasting a deep need for human drivers. The company projects that in five years the number of Lyft drivers will more than double from 1.4 million.
“Just as advancements in aviation technologies haven’t reduced the need for pilots or flight staff, there’s still security in the future for the 1.4 million people who depend on driving for an income,” McNeill wrote in a post on Medium. “We are in the business of supporting our drivers for the long haul. Period.”
Lyft hired Geoffrey Bain, formerly of Unilever and Nike, to head up the retail effort.