SAN FRANCISCO -- Lyft is out to make it easier to drive for its ride-hailing service.
Lyft on Thursday announced partnerships with Shell gas stations and rental car company Hertz. It also unveiled a new in-app feature built with payments processor Stripe that will make it easier for drivers to cash out their earnings from rides. It's all aimed at attracting and retaining more drivers.
"We're incredibly motivated to make more and more improvements for you," Lyft co-founder John Zimmer told drivers during a packed event at the company's headquarters.
Lyft, which pairs passengers with drivers via a smartphone app, currently operates in 150 cities in the US and provides more than 1 million rides per week. It's small compared with rival Uber, which is in 60 countries around the world. To keep up, Lyft has been developing incentive programs to lure drivers from Uber. With more Lyft drivers on the road, people using the smartphone app to get a ride could see shorter wait times.
The biggest expense for Lyft drivers is gas, said David Rust, Lyft's head of operations strategy. To help bring this cost down, Lyft partnered with Shell on a fuel rewards program that gives drivers discounts on gas. The more a driver spends on gas at Shell stations, the bigger the discount they receive, Rust said.
"The baseline is a 3-cent discount per gallon and then it goes up from there," said Rust. "We saw the natural marriage of drivers and fuel."
The fuel rewards program will initially be available in San Francisco, Chicago and Boston, and is expected to make its way to 12,500 Shell stations across the US early next year.
The company also showed off a new in-app feature called Express Pay, which will be available in November. It lets drivers deposit earnings into a bank account once they've made $50 by hitting a "cash out" button in the Lyft app. The company built the feature with Stripe, which will handle the transactions.
"Living in San Francisco is so expensive," said Lyft driver Todd Slingsby, who attended the event on Thursday. "Now I can get money when I need it. That's huge."
Lyft also announced a partnership with Hertz that will give drivers discounts on daily, weekly and monthly car rentals. This will make it easier for people who don't own cars -- or have cars that meet Lyft's standards -- to become drivers for the service. Twenty percent of drivers who apply to drive for Lyft can't join because their vehicles aren't up to snuff, according to the company.
"This opportunity here is a game changer for people who don't have employment," said Lyft driver Charles Tatum, who also attended the event. "It's very empowering for a lot of individuals that wouldn't have access to this type of thing."
Uber also has incentives for its drivers, including a car rental pilot program with Cox automotive company Flexdrive and a discount fuel card for drivers who carry out at least 200 trips per month in which they can save 1.5 percent every time they fill their tank.
Update, October 8 at 6:15 p.m. PT: added information on Uber's driver incentives.