The Waze of the Road ► UpLyfting Thoughts #5

The thing that impresses me the most about Lyft (aside from the earnings) is the technology.

Lyft is an app for your phone, drivers and customers alike.

As strange as it sounds, I’ve yet to see what the customer sees. However, I’m told they can track my movements on a map to see how close I may be. I’m hoping that function is not too accurate because I am often logged in from the Not Now Silly Newsroom (where I am sitting right now waiting for a fare).

One of these days I’ll pretend to be a customer, just so I can see what Lyftees see.

However, let’s look at the technology from the driver’s POV:

When I log into Lyft a map of the local area pops up on my phone with an indicator centered on the map to show where I am. North is always at the top.

One slight bug: Most of the time it’s a small chevron [like the one right], which points in the direction I am facing. However, every once in a while it becomes just a dot, which is not helpful if I am in an unfamiliar neighbourhood and need to know which way is which. Worse than the dot, there are some times the chevron points in the wrong direction entirely…for hours on end. Then, just as suddenly, it corrects itself and all is right with the world again.

However, it’s when an order comes in that the real magic starts.

When Lyft sends me a customer, a big pink circle pops up on the center of the screen with the customer’s name and picture. There is also has a ticking 10 second countdown with a timing indicator moving around the circle. If I want the order — and keep in mind I have no idea of the client’s destination — I have those 10 seconds in which to accept the run. I am not obligated to accept it. I can just watch it time out if I want, but why would I? I’m logged on to service customers. Regardless, I have to keep my acceptance rate above 80% if I want to cash in on any of the Power Driver Bonuses that Lyft offers based on a scale of criteria.

Once I accept an order the Lyft app automatically opens Waze, a GPS program I was using long before I became a Lyft driver. Waze directs me right to the door where my customer awaits. Because they can follow my progress, often they are waiting outside holding their cellphone. Every once in a while the Grey Ghost pulls up to a business where several people are looking into their cellphones. Hoo boy! However, they not only have my name and picture, but a description of the Grey Ghost. It all works out.

However, there’s a small bug there, too. If I am almost right on top of the client’s location, Waze does not pop up. It seems to assume I know where I need to go because, heck, I’m right there. However, I can’t be reading addresses on the app when I’m driving and one can’t always pull over to check. Luckily there’s another button that forces Waze to cough up the info I really need.

If my client is not outside I press another button on my side of the app, which alerts the customer that I’ve arrived. That’s when another timer starts. The client has 5 minutes to get to the car, otherwise I report them as a NO SHOW and drive off. During peak hours this timer is set to 2 minutes. This is time I’m being paid for and it gives me time to relax.

Twice the Grey Ghost drove away from a NO SHOW only to be called right back to the same place because they ordered another Lyft. That’s kind of embarrassing because they just watched me drive off.

Once I get the Lyftee in the Grey Ghost, I press another button that says, essentially, “I got ’em”. Suddenly Waze pops up again and directs me right to their destination. It all works so seamlessly that almost no thought on the part of the driver is needed.

One thing that I love, but might frustrates other Lyft drivers, is that I still don’t know our ultimate destination once I have my passenger in the car. Waze only shows me a small portion of the total map I must transverse before I can drop off the customer. While I can immediately see how many miles they are going and the estimated time of arrival, the destination is off the screen. I can always move the Waze map to show the ultimate destination, but I never do. Why should I? I am going wherever the customer is going. What difference does it make? Besides, I kind of like the surprise. I don’t know where we are going until we get there.

There are several other interesting operations on the Lyft app, some of which I may describe in future UpLyfting Thoughts.

My Ways of the Road

I’ve driven as an amateur for decades. However, I’ve also driven professionally, as a cab driver in Toronto. During all that time on the road, I have developed a number of rules for myself that I wish more drivers would embrace. They are all based upon good driving habits, manners, logic, and my own mellow personality.

Your mileage may vary, but it wouldn’t hurt any — or all — of you to adopt any — or all — of these:

Drive like karma is attached:
It takes little time and zero effort to demonstrate consideration on the road.

My attitude is that all pedestrians have the right of way no matter where they are and whether they are crossing legally, or not. Here’s how I view it: I am sitting down and comfortable in a nicely air conditioned car. The pedestrian is not. It costs me mere seconds to let the pedestrian go first.

I also let cars needing to merge get in front of me without racing ahead to cut them off, like I see far too many Bozos do to me when I’m trying to get on the highway. This is not a race and I have no need, or desire for that matter, to get ahead of anybody. When traffic is merging I adjust my speed accordingly because I believe the zipper method serves all drivers on the road best.

Eventually that good karma comes back to me. And, if it doesn’t? Who cares? Because I . . .

Achieve Zen status behind the wheel:
We’ve all seen Road Rage. Some people get behind the wheel of a car and suddenly it’s a contest of testosterone, altho’ women are not immune. Drive too slow, or do something they don’t like, and it’s all honking horns, middle fingers, and — occasionally — revenge driving.

I can’t drive that way, especially since I am spending so much time on the road. There’s always some asshole out there who will cut me off, or so something stupidly dangerous, that if I wanted to be pissed off, I could be pissed off full time. Additionally, it wouldn’t matter how I felt or reacted. The idiots will still be out there, whether I allowed myself righteous anger, or not. The traffic would still be the traffic, whether I allow it to frustrate me or not.

It’s so much easier to just get in the zone and relax. Besides, my happy place is behind the wheel of a car with music playing. Lyft just adds someone to talk to.

Use your turn signals:
It’s amazing how many drivers do not use turn signals. In my rough estimation, it’s well below 40%, and this includes police cars. In fact, it’s a rare cop car that uses turn signals. Maybe they’re broken.

I don’t make a move without first indicating it with the turn indicator and this includes parking lots and alleys.

Additionally, it’s not like the guy who invented the turn signal (Phineas J. Blinker; look it up) put the switch in the trunk It’s right at your fucking fingertips, assholes. The only excuse anyone has for not using turn signals is if they have no arms. And, if that’s the case, why are they even driving?

Here’s a little story from my cabbie days:

I picked up a grouchy gent at 4AM (who just happened to live on my street, but 2 blocks north) to take him to the Toronto airport. You get a sense of people right away and my impression is this guy was gruff and didn’t want any conversation. So, I jumped on the highway, first the QEW and then up the 427. As we’re cruising up the 427 suddenly the guy shouts at me, “You do that every time?”

“Do what, Sir?”

“Use your turn signals! We’re alone on this highway! Who the hell are you signalling to?!?”

That’s when I realized that my using my turn signals is just an automatic reflex. I don’t even think about it when I’m doing it.

The punchline to that story is that when we pulled up to the airport, he tossed me an extra $20 and said, in the same grumpy, gruff voice, “Best driving I’ve ever seen!”

Don’t let anyone else drive your car:
By this I don’t mean allowing someone else to get behind the wheel. I am talking about those other drivers who will honk at you to get you to do something. Some honks are just to request a entry into your lane. Those are fine. It’s those who honk to get you to go faster, or those who try and get you to drive differently.
I drive my own car and don’t let anyone else outside the car change the way I drive my game.

Come to a full stop at every stop sign:
I’ve only received 1 traffic ticket the entire time I’ve been a driver. I rolled a stop sign and was immediately lit up by a police car I hadn’t noticed. I’ve never done it again.

Additionally, when I come to a stop I look left, look right, and look left again before proceeding when it’s safe.

Leave Space:
There are 2 times when leaving space is important. Certainly when driving down the highway at speed, one should never tailgate. It’s just dangerous. When I find someone on my ass, I slow down. If that doesn’t get the message across [or if they start honking], I put on my 4-way flashers. That almost always solves the problem.

The other time one needs to leave space is stopped at a traffic light. My original driving instructor told me that when stopping at a traffic light, make sure you can see the wheels of the car in front of you. Not because they’re interesting to look at, but because it leaves room if there’s any jockeying needed before the light changes. Additionally, if there’s an emergency vehicle that needs to get through, that space allows drivers to move to the right. REMEMBER: The life you save may be your mother’s.

Don’t play the lanes:
Every lane is going to the same place. There’s little point in jumping back and forth to get one, or two, cars ahead. It’s more than likely that we’ll all be at the next stop light together, or that the lane on the highway you’ve jump into will just bog down later. Relax; It’s less wear and tear on your car and brain.

Save your gas:
Why do people race to get to the red light ahead? As soon as I see a light changing ahead of me, I take my foot off the gas. Sometimes I hear a horn from the driver behind me, who is inexplicably in a hurry to get to the red light. Occasionally they’ll even hit the gas and zoom around me to get to that red light, some even giving me the finger as if I did something wrong.

Save your horn:
If I have to use my horn, I consider it a failure on both our parts. I use my horn on an average of 5 times a year.

Change lanes safely:
Aside from using turn signals [see above], don’t change lanes in the middle of an intersection. That’s dangerous, but I see this at least once a day.

Also, respect the solid white line. It means, essentially, stay in your own lane until it’s no longer a solid white line. Occasionally, there’s a valid reason for crossing a solid white line, but most of the time it’s just foolish and potentially hazardous. There’s a reason the line was put there.

Drive like you’re colouring:
Stay inside the the lines!!!

Life would be so much easier if we all followed Headly’s Highway Hints.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.