Exclusive - John Zimmer Extended Interview

January 17, 2017 - John Zimmer 01/17/2017 Views: 20,107

Lyft co-founder John Zimmer compares the company's safety standards to other licensed car services and explains how rideshares are influencing automotive engineering. (8:25)

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Please welcome John Zimmer.

(cheering and applause)

How are you, man?

Welcome, man, welcome.

-Welcome to the show.-Thanks for having me.

Congratulations on, uh,

creating and disruptingbusiness as we know it.

Thank you.

How do you come up with Lyft?

And what kind of creepy personthinks it will be cool

for people to share carsand be strangers?

Yeah,so my-my cofounder and I

came at itfrom two different ways.

-So Logan grew up in LA,so he hates traffic. -Yeah.

And he wanted to find a wayto-to solve for traffic.

Uh, and I studied hospitality,uh, at Cornell,

and wanted to think about howcould you apply the principles

of hospitality, high occupancy

and great service,to transportation.

We actually only use our carsfour percent of the time,

and it costs us more moneythan anything,

except for the house.

So we saw a big opportunityto bring people together,

get people sharing rides,uh, with-with safety,

with criminal background checksand driving record checks.

Uh, and-and now we did over160 million rides last year.

-160 million rides. Wow.-(applause)

That's, uh...

That's a lot of people.

Um, and a lot of moneyfor you guys, as well.

Because really that's-that'swhat this has become, uh,

you know, uh,a big part of, as well,

is ride-sharing makesa lot of money, you know.

Lyft is valued at many billions.

I-I don't know what it isright now,

but you are in a business,

and yet people don't knowhow to manage that business.

We see it in New York,you see it all over the world,

people going is ride-sharinggood, or is it bad?

Like, how do you,how do you answer the question

that some politicians have,

where they say this is badfor the economy

because it's not regulatedin any way?

Uh, well, we'd say firstthat it is regulated.

And so we actually havecriminal background checks,

and driving record checksthat in many jurisdictions

-are more strict than what taxisand limos used to do. -Yeah.

We have a million dollarinsurance policy.

When we started there was nocategory for sharing rides

in other people's personal cars.

It was perfectly normal to getinto a yellow car in New York.

-Yeah.And-and that was, you know,

something society expectedand was comfortable with.

But we said there areall these cars sitting here

that are unused,there's all these people

that-that would like to haveadditional work,

uh, and if we could solve

for that safety question,which we have.

Um, you know, one of the thingsthat we think about is,

I want to make sure my familyand-and loved ones

are comfortableusing the service,

and so we builta service that we believe, uh,

is as safe as anything,uh, and likely safer.

Here-Here's what I-whatI am genuinely fascinated by,

in terms of the growthof the company--

-you've now teamed upwith GM. -Mm-hmm.

And you're developingdriverless cars, right?

And I know I'm one of thosepeople who goes,

"I love the idea, but whatdoes that actually mean?"

So, first of all, like, doI have to call them at the co...

'Cause you know, like, sometimesthe driver's not where they...

And then you're like,"Where are..." Is that, like,

a robot, now, that I'm talkingto? Is it, like...

(imitating robot):"No, I'm at the other corner."

Um, like... how-how is thatwhole thing gonna work?

Yeah, so, uh, we're...we're a few years off

from having autonomous carshave a real impact

-on-on how we get around.-Yeah.

Um, but-but I like to,you know, zoom out and say,

"Why are we doing this?"And-and the big...

the big reason whyis that it's a shame

our citiesare designed around cars.

You know, a majorityof our cities are paved over,

there's parking spotseverywhere,

there's roads everywhere.The more roads we build,

the more cars we get.Uh, and we started thinking

how could we change that,how could we design our cities

around people instead of cars?

And you startdown a path of, uh,

making transportation moreand more affordable for someone

versus owning a car and...

which costs about $9,000 a yearper household.

Autonomous vehicles areone of the ways that-that we can

get there, uh, and you canmake this more efficient.

Um, but it will be a compliment

to the drivers we haveon the platform as well.

Here-Here's the thing that-thatworries me sometimes, though.

Yes, people are spendinga lot of money on owning cars,

parking cars,and everything is paved over.

But then there are some peoplewho may be listening to you

going, "But what about my jobas a driver?

"So, I've just become a driver,

"and now you're sayingthere will be no more jobs

for drivers in this industry."

Is-Isn't that something that,you know...

I-I don't knowif it's a responsibility or not,

but, as Lyft,as a... as a corporation,

do you... do you ever thinkof the ramifications of that?

Absolutely. And-and, yes,it is a responsibility.

Uh, we wouldn't be doingwhat we're doing

if we didn't think it was a netpositive for-for the world.

And I thinkwe're about ten years away

from this impacting jobs.

And our hope--and the fact that, you know,

we're-we're happywe're in this...

Because if we're not in this,

we don't know what the othercompanies are gonna do.

Our record has shown we've takencare of drivers better

-than any other company.-Yeah.

We're gonna be responsiblethrough any transition.

And I actually thinkthere is a possibility

that you could create a servicethat-that creates more jobs.

They might not be driving thevehicles ten, 20 years from now,

but I don't think the car isgonna look like a car anymore.

I think it's gonna bemore like a room on wheels,

and then you might have servicesin those... in those rooms.

I-I feel like you future guyshave really tricked us

into, like, being contentwith the world

as you've presented it.'Cause, like, you just said

"a room on wheels."Like, when do we float?

I don't... Like...I'm not impressed anymore.

It's like it's a driving roomon wheels by its...

Like, when do we...Are you not developing that?

-No. We're gonna stayon the ground. -But why?

Like, I mean, is there no...Do you not have any aspirations

to, like, try and make a car...

-You have money.-(laughter)

Come on, man.You have money.

You really don't even everdream of,

like, you know, taking a...

Like, imagine catching a Lyft

that's a drone,and it comes picking...

-(imitates drone engine revving)-(laughter)

Others are working that...on that.

-We're not. We're not.-You guys... You don't...

I love how you're like, "No,I'm on the ground, Trevor."

-(laughter) -Yeah. -"On theground in my rolling house.

That is what I'm doing this."

Let me ask you this.Responsibility.

Just a hypothetical.

Let's say I'm rollingin my autonomous Lyft

-in the future.-Mm-hmm.

And there's no driver.

-And then we get pulled overby the police. -(laughter)

-And the police happen to find abag of weed in the car. -Yeah.

-(laughter)-(Zimmer clears his throat)

Can we agree that your robotwas smoking that (bleep)?


-(applause and cheering) -Like,how does responsibility work?

-I... -How, like...But genuinely,

how does responsibility workhere?

I mean, in terms of accidents,in terms of just

thinking about a worldwhere there's...

there's an autonomous car--

like, what does that meanfor responsibility?

'Cause in an accident you go,"This happened because of,"

or "This person gets blamed."

-What happens in that world?-Yeah.

Um, I think you could lookto the airlines industry.

There's gonna be productliability on the vehicle,

-whoever's providingthe vehicle. -Yeah.

And then there's operationsliability on the company.

Um, and as I said, you know,we have family members.

I'm a new father.I have a one-year-old daughter.

And I think aboutwhen she turns 16.

-Whatever waysshe's getting around... -Yeah.

...I want to be incredibly safe.

And I know that everyone elsehas their loved ones

in vehicles, and so,it's a huge responsibility,

and one that's the mostimportant thing we do.

We can't have trustwith our users, our passengers,

our drivers if, you know,we don't solve that first.

It's a... it's a really funbusiness that you've started,

and, as you said,you know, like,

the company has a great image,trust and-and familiarity,

sitting in the front seatwith, uh, with the driver

and having conversations.

Where do yousee yourselves going

beyond just autonomous?

Like, like, what is Lyft tryingto do in the world

as a company, beyond justthe futurizing of the car?

Yeah, I think it startswith that idea that, uh...

our cities are designedaround a car.

And-and the designof our cities,

uh, impacts how we interact.

And so I thinkthat's a real shame.

You have people that actuallystart their day, you know,

having a bowl of cer... cereal,going into a car,

going into the office,going into an elevator,

sitting in a cubicle all alone.

I think that's a shame.

We want people to interact.

Uh, the nice thing about Lyft,even today,

before we addedthe shared-ride options

and before you have autonomouswith multiple people

-in this room on wheels, is that-Yeah.

you have people from differentbackgrounds interacting,

you have people that havedifferent political beliefs

talking to each other,you have drivers

going throughall different parts of town,

-talking to people they wouldn'thave talked to. -Mm-hmm.

That is really powerful,that's really important,

and that-that'sa big part of our mission.

I admire whatyou're trying to do.

I will say this.As a... as a person

who has adopted New Yorkas my home,

I don't support you in any way.

-(laughter)-I think getting rid of traffic

and getting rid of awkwardnesswith strangers

is part of what makes this citywhat it is.

So, uh, good luckto you and yours, my friend,

but don't do it here.

Thank you very muchfor being on the show.

John Zimmer, everybody.