SXSW is known for having breakout apps of the year. There was Twitter, Foursquare and, very recently, Meerkat.
But this year it’s not about anything innovative in tech that’s get every attendee pulling out their smartphone and opening the app store.
In Austin, Texas, there’s no Uber or Lyft. To induce the 25 -minute drive from the airport to downtown Austin, you have to either lease a vehicle, hail a taxi, or download a brand-new app.
And yes, you read that right: Not even Lyft .
In Austin, for virtually the past year, the two biggest ride-hailing companies in the United States haven’t controlled. It’s a complicated narrative of citizens versus firms, of abhorrence for a duopoly and annoyance for not complying to city principles, that’s left Austin as one of the few areas in the U.S. where “Let’s get an Uber” only doesn’t fly.
Instead, you’ll see this 😛 TAGEND
Austinites and guests, like the 70,000 people who traveled for SXSW, have to use Ride Austin, Fasten, Fare, Get Me, Arcade City, Wingz, zTrip, Chariot, pedicabs, taxis, and treading insteadjust to name a few options. In a world( well, metropolitan) without Uber and Lyft, innovation’s emerged, some mention, with dozens of brand-new players impounding the opportunity to grow a transportation business.
“I would say Austin is innovative and developing. Frankly, I’m only proud of my metropolitan for being able to adapt in real-time for the loss of the large-scale players, ” Austin city Mayor Steve Adler said.
But others critique that what has happened in Austin isn’t truly that innovative. “Is it truly invention, or are they just less sophisticated ride-sharing platforms? ” told Austin city council member Ellen Troxclair.
Over a week squander taking cars, interviewing the brand-new players, the tech giants, the legislators, the motorists, the equestrians and the visitors in Austin, we came to learn that in some ways, the city’s only developed another duopoly, which has led to a state of distraction and mismanagement. Is it worth noting? Is it really safer? And then, of course, what about that black market player we detected, the one operating a service on the blockchain?
What’s really happening when you catch a go in Austin?
Welcome to Austin
When I arrived at SXSW on March 9, the Austin airport saluted me with a sign for Ride Austin.
I was joking, of course. But when I cracked open the local-use app, I determined a layout strikingly similar to Uber itself. How do they get away with it? Well: Just question Facebook how they get away with all three of their Stories products. They do it because they can.
My Mashable colleagues, who I tasked with sharing their ride-hailing experiences with me, determined Ride Austin to be their go-to service of the trip.
“I use RideAustin just now and it was basically precisely like Uber, but I didnt feel like shit for using it( given all the recent news/ management problems ), ” one colleague wrote to me on Slack. “Nothing bad about the service. It was great. The vehicle I had smelt like cigarette smoking, but the driver was so lovely that it didnt bother me too much.”
Another one of all my fellow members, who’s quite familiar with product design, didn’t has only one enjoyable time with the app, however.
“Ride Austin on Android is a terrible suffer, to the point where I couldn’t even use it. The first screen gives you single option to sign in, on the next screen you are able to authenticate with FB, or use an existing email/ PW combo. If you do FB it lets you go through the whole rigamarole and then devotes error that you have to sign up first, ” she told. “On the plus side, the taxi cable moved fast.”
According to my first Ride Austin driver from the airport to the inn, Austinites and guests should have multiple ride-hailing apps on their phone in case of congestion. He drove for Fasten, as well.
“The app was gate-crashing a bunch the first time I use it, and retained signing me out, but it seems to be holding up now, ” another one of all my fellow members told. “All in all, it doesn’t feel like I miss Uber all that much.”
Companies drive in
So why no Uber and Lyft? The two companies left the city last year after losing a fight against a vote step to remove the is necessary to motorists to have fingerprint background checks. Lyft and Uber argued that this safety measure was unnecessary and funneled millions of dollars into lobbying against it.
But when the giants left, smaller players searched ahead, such as Fasten, a ride-hailing app that had so far simply operated in Boston.
“We visualized opportunity to do something good here. Multibillion companies have been built on top of motorists who do all the work. Why would we take a quarter out of each motorists dollar just because we can? We recognise the mistakes that Uber and Lyft were shaping. We visualized chamber for a company for putting people first, ” Fasten CEO Kirill Evdakov tells me in their WeWork space a few miles up from downtown Austin.
Sitting across from four males at a table, I learn that while these men consider their business to be the third biggest player under Uber and Lyft, they don’t insure ride-hailing as an innovative business.
Still, “the mens” are competitive against their contenders in Austinparticularly with Ride Austin. Fasten has 60 percentage of the market in Austin, according to Fasten.
Some equestrians, and motorists, opted Ride Austin due to its nonprofit status. Equestrians can choose to roundup to the dollar and donate the rest to a charity of their choices.
So even though they are apparently seems to be another duopoly at play in Austin, SXSW attendees did have some other options. Chariot, a startup acquired by Ford last year, was moving its shuttle vans throughout downtown.
“Our goal is to become the first world mass transit, ” Chariot CEO Ali Vahabzadeh told. “Food, dres, shelter, and transport has become the fourth the living standards. We’re really excited that Chariot can become a part of the solution.”
Wingz also runs in Austin as a personal driver service, coordinated through an app. “Our motorists are waiting for you, rather than you waiting on the curb for Uber and Lyft, ” CEO Chris Brandon told. “You are completely for the purposes of the power of the Uber and Lyft platform. On Wingz, you schedule the time. You schedule the driver.”
An underground option also subsists. Arcade City takes goes via Facebook Messenger( and an app) and is built on the blockchain to bypass regulations. I asked for an interview with the different regions administrator in Texas simply to be told in an email: “I’m out there moving on the front lines with the other motorists as well. So I sleep relatively limited and drive all the time.”
SXSW didn’t run seamlessly. Ride Austin and Fasten had “glitches” Saturday nightarguably, the busiest time for SXSW events.
The mayor, who spoke with me on the phone several times over the week, was quick to protect and champion the apps. “We had a flaw on Saturday. I can remember being at the[ Democratic National Convention] in July and Uber didnt work, ” he said.
“I consider the real thing you should look at is how did they retrieve last-place nighttime? I havent heard from Fasten, but Ride Austin was 14,000[ goes] strong, ” he continued.
There’s ever other , non-tech options in Austin. The weekend after Uber and Lyft left a conference across the street from City Hall hired pedicabs, according to Council Member Troxclair.
Uber and Lyft may come back soon. During the second week of SXSW, a brand-new ride-hailing bill was presented to the House Transportation Committee of Texas.
“Uber wishes to be in many, many more cities in Texas, and our hope is that one day we can extend the entire state, ” TrevorTheunissen, Uber’s Public Affairs Lead in Texas, was indicated in his testimony before the meetings of the committee. “However, the local regulations under which we are now operate vary as much as Texas landscape, and it presents unique challenges when it comes to moving people across multiple lines of jurisdiction.”
One driver said he didn’t truly miss Uber. “They were so douchey be addressed with. They could care less about us, ” he said.
Several of the motorists I go with during SXSW was working for Uber and/ or Lyft. One driver said he didn’t truly miss Uber. “They were so douchey be addressed with. They could care less about us, ” he said.
“As a consumer, ” he told, “they were a good deal. I had to get a regular chore when I was driving for them because there was no minimum fare. The rate get so low.”
Austinites are rather apprehensive over Uber’s return. “There are a lot of people in Austin that are actually miss Uber though just for accessibility part, only because it’s a little cheaper, but most of us would rather pay$ 2 more, ” told Elise Graham, an Austin resident and cofounder of Olivia AI.
Sometimes, though, technologybe it an important player like Uber or a minor one like Ride Austinjust doesn’t job. My boyfriend was left stranded at a strip mall after his Ride Austin go took him to the wrong address. It was either walk in the torrent for 30 minutes, wait for another driver, or find a different solution.
Turns out a few kids in the parking lot were willing to offer a go back to downtown. Good ole Southern hospitality.
Back in New York
Walking through New York’s LaGuardia airport, after eight days in Austin, I was quickly remind ourselves Uber and Lyft.
Three Uber employees were stationed by the exit, dressed in Uber shirts, maintaining Uber containers and handing out cards for $10 UberPool rides.
One of the employees said she “loved working for Uber because I get to help people get home. It’s a good corporation full of adoration people.”
I thanked her for her time and told I had to go catch my Lyft outside.
“Lyft, they’re good too, ” she said.
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