When Lyft first launched its ride-hailing service in San Francisco in 2012, it gave drivers big, pink, hairy mustaches to drape over their cars' grilles. The idea was to make it easy for passengers to identify Lyft drivers. That fad, however, did not last.
After rolling out other iterations of the pink 'stache, the company has finally decided to move away from facial hair replicas and into new branding territory. Enter "Amp."
Riffing on the idea of a taxi light, Amp is a lit-up, oblong box that drivers adhere to their dashboards. The glowing display of 160 LED lights -- emblazoned with the word "Lyft" -- comes in a rainbow of colors to help passengers better identify their drivers, especially at night.
"We don't view this as shaving the 'stache," Tali Rapaport, Lyft's vice president of product, said during a press event at the company's San Francisco headquarters. "We view this as a bigger, bolder amp of our brand."
Next to Uber, Lyft has long been thought of as second string in the highly competitive ride-hailing space. While Uber is valued at $68 billion, Lyft is valued at $5.5 billion. And while Uber is in more than 450 cities in 70 countries, Lyft is in 200 US cities. But competition is heating up as Lyft continues to grow and aims to win over Uber passengers.
Amp, which was unveiled on Tuesday and begins rolling out in December, is one of the ways Lyft is trying to endear itself to more passengers. Typically when riders hail a Lyft with their smartphone, they're given the make, color and license plate of their driver's car. Now, with Amp, they'll also be given a personalized color -- teal, green, orange, silver, purple or yellow. The color displayed on a rider's phone will be the same color lit up on their driver's Amp.
This color-matching should speed up the process of drivers and passengers finding each other, Rapaport said. "Every second we shave off the time it takes for the driver and passenger to connect... is a win."
Along with personalized color, drivers also have the option of entering a customized message on the backside of Amp that passengers see once inside the car. They can write anything from "Go Giants" to "Hello" and the passengers' name, Rapaport said. She noted this feature could also be helpful for drivers who are hearing impaired.
Initially, Amp will only be available in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but Lyft intends to bring it to all cities where it operates within the next year. Lyft is providing the device to drivers for free. With the announcement of Amp, Lyft is also launching a new television ad campaign titled "Ride on the bright side," which overtly pokes fun at Uber and its corporate persona.
Even though Lyft is getting rid of the mustache as a brand identity, the company's creative director Ricardo Viramontes said the color pink is here to stay. In fact, pink will be what people see when they first turn on Amp.
"There will never not be pink," Viramontes said.