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Lyft invests $100M in driver support centers

The ride-hailing company doubles down in its battle with Uber to win over drivers.

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This is a rendering of one of Lyft's upcoming service centers for drivers.

Lyft

Ride-hail drivers can run up against a bunch of obstacles when out on the road. They might have questions about a ride they gave, they might need maintenance for their car and they usually have to take a break to get something to eat and go to the bathroom.

Lyft is hoping it can help its drivers with some of these issues. The company said Wednesday it's investing $100 million to build roughly 30 driver support centers across the US. At these centers, drivers can get oil changes at a "heavy discount," have help with their taxes and talk to Lyft's support team in person, among other perks.

"We'll help drivers make a greater profit by reducing their costs, and providing education on how to maximize their earnings," Lyft COO Jon McNeill wrote in a blog post.

Lyft is in a tight battle with its rival Uber to win over drivers. The two companies' existence depends on drivers because without drivers, they don't have customers. And without customers, well, there's no business.

After a tumultuous few years with drivers, Uber launched a campaign last year to make things right with its drivers. It rolled out an initiative called "180 Days of Change" that added 40 new features aimed at boosting drivers' earnings and making their jobs less stressful. And Uber redesigned its driver app last month to make matching with passengers easier.

While Lyft has long been seen by drivers as the nicer, friendlier ride-hailing company, it's had to do more to hold onto drivers -- as Uber put on the charm offensive. Lyft said its US market share is now at 35 percent, but it's hoping that number keeps raising.

Last September, Lyft rolled out new improvements, like 24/7 phone support and scheduled pickups. And the company also began a program in December that requires all eligible corporate employees to spend 16 hours a year working as a driver or staffing driver support calls -- to better understand drivers' jobs.

Drivers for both companies still have their complaints. While it helps to have a better app and customer support, what drivers say they really want is higher earnings.

Lyft said its new service centers will help drivers cut costs. At the centers, drivers can get discounted vehicle maintenance, service car washes, and car and SUV rentals through Lyft's Express Drive program. Lyft said these centers will also have coffee, refreshments and resting areas, along with education opportunities and staffed help desks.

Lyft already has about 15 driver hubs in major US cities where drivers can meet up with each other and get support from the company. The new service centers will be amplified versions of the hubs. 

Uber has similar locales that it calls Greenlight Locations, where people can get vehicle inspections to become drivers and in-person support (some of these are in existing auto centers, like Jiffy Lube). Uber has 200 of these Greenlight Locations across the US and Canada.

Lyft's new service centers will be built in coming months. Initially there will be 30 across the US, but Lyft said that number could grow.

"We're not doing 180 days of change. Lyft has been committed to drivers since our beginning," McNeill wrote. "I'm excited to raise the bar again by providing drivers with an incredible in-person experience."

First published May 23, 5:00 a.m. PT. 
Update, 11:42 p.m.: Adds information on Uber's Greenlight Locations.

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