Ridesharing is the sharing of vehicles by passengers to reduce vehicle trips, traffic congestion, and automobile emissions.
One form of this sustainable strategy is a smartphone application that facilitates peer-to-peer ridesharing by connecting passengers who need a ride with drivers who have a car. This includes firms like Uber and Lyft.
There is also Zimride, which is a ridesharing platform that connects inter-city drivers and passengers at companies and universities through social networking (Facebook).
Zimride has over 350,000 registered users and reportedly has saved over $50 million in vehicle-operation expenses.
The number of active Uber driver partners in the United States has increased exponentially in recent years and is now growing at a rate of about 50,000 every three to six months.
Uber’s success has been detrimental to the traditional taxi industry by devaluing the worth of taxi drivers’ licenses to the tune of 30 percent or more in certain markets. After Uber’s entry into a market or major city, the average monthly number of trips per cab decreases, as does the reported number of complaints per taxi ride.
Clearly, peer-to-peer ridesharing has disrupted the U.S. transportation industry, but will it disrupt the car wash industry? According to the company’s website, Uber expects its driver partners to keep vehicles clean and comfortable. Vehicle interiors should be neat and free of strong or unpleasant odors. If the vehicle does not meet expectations of cleanliness, the customer is encouraged to inform the company via the phone app.
On the other hand, riders are responsible for damage to the interior or exterior of a vehicle caused by incidents such as vomiting, food spills, etc. In such an event, drivers have the right to charge a cleaning fee.
Driver motivation is a five-point rating system that evaluates customer service, cleanliness of vehicles, and other factors. Score below 4.2 and drivers risk losing their gig.
Drivers are educated on the cleanliness policy during the initial vetting that occurs after they apply for a job. Enforcement of the policy consists principally of the rider’s voluntary evaluation on the app. The reason is it is very difficult to actually contact a human being at Uber over the telephone.
To learn how Uber’s cleanliness policy has played out in the real world, I spent some time online searching related articles and forums. According to a former taxi driver, now with Uber, a clean car is in a driver’s best interest. A dirty car equals a poor rider experience equals a poor driver rating equals less business.
One Uber driver from Michigan stated he goes with a yearly full-service wash pass for $650 and visits three to four times per week. Then he spends $180 for detailing in the spring. Another driver said he visits a drive-thru wash twice a week with a $19-a-month unlimited wash pass. He does windows and vacuums once every other week and installed rubber floor mats to cut down on vacuuming.
Another driver complained his last 30-plus rides were all in the $5 range and he had not been to a car wash in over a month. Another driver said his car really doesn’t get very dirty and he gets by with using a feather duster on the interior and cleaning the windows inside and out at beginning of each day.
There were also proponents of DIY such as using a wand-bay self-serve. Some drivers even provided long, drawn-out recipes for hand washing, waxing, window cleaning, and shampooing.
There were also drivers that said they refuse to pay for a car wash because it uses their hard-earned money.
Arguably, Uber drivers’ car wash behaviors aren’t much different than general public. Of course, we should expect to find this to be the case because Uber drivers are the general public. Consequently, each category of commercial car washing has something to gain by serving the diverse needs of this growing market segment.