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Ride-Sharing for Executive Transportation: Can You Afford to Take the Risk?

Jon Hooton

May 17, 2018

Today’s executives have never had more options when it comes to ground transportation. Arrive at their destinations, and your travelers will find themselves confronted with everything from traditional taxis and standard black car limo services to Lyft, UberX, UberXL, UberSelect and UberBLACK.

In light of all this choice, how do you make the right decision for your executive travelers’ transportation needs?

While it’s tempting to say, “just use Savoya,” the long answer is… it depends. The appropriate travel solution for you and your executives comes down to a number of different factors, including your required level of confidentiality, your comfort with different security risks, your traveler’s in-vehicle requirements and, of course, your budget.


The Risks of Ride-Sharing Services for Executive Transportation

Uber and Lyft were revolutionary innovations in the transportation space, to be sure. Since 2010 and 2012, respectively, these companies have fundamentally changed the way technology is used in the travel space, in addition to creating new work opportunities for millions people seeking supplementary income worldwide.

However, as recent headlines have demonstrated, the impact of ride-sharing services hasn’t been entirely positive. Consider, for example:

While these challenges may be unsettling for all passengers, high-end travelers in particular may want to ask the following questions about using ride-sharing services for executive transportation.

Access to Personal Information

Uber’s safety website puts a heavy premium on transparency, emphasizing that, “All riders must create an account and provide their name and phone number before they can request a ride. So when you accept a request, you’ll know who you’re picking up and so will we.”

For the average passenger, Uber’s “no anonymous pickups” policy minimizes the risk associated with getting into a car with a stranger. This positive identification, however, may be undesirable in the case of high-profile passengers, who require a greater level of confidentiality when traveling. In these cases, a system that allows for traveler information to be kept hidden may be more desirable.

Lyft, unfortunately, is no safer from a privacy perspective. As Slate contributor Aaron Mak notes in a January 2018 column, “there are reports alleging Lyft’s employees also have a habit of snooping on customers.”

The allegation was made by a Blind app user who purported to work for Lyft, and who claimed that staff members regularly used their access to monitor the movements of passengers and to look up information on public figures like Mark Zuckerberg and popular actresses. Lyft claimed to be investigating the matter at the time of Mak’s reporting.

Driver Vetting and Security

Beyond privacy considerations, executive travelers must examine the security risks of digital taxi services like Uber and Lyft.

Currently, becoming a driver for Uber requires meeting four standards:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Have at least one year of licensed driving experience in the U.S. (3 years if you are under 23 years old)
  • Have a valid U.S. driver’s license
  • Use an eligible 4-door vehicle

Once these thresholds are cleared, drivers must produce a valid driver’s license, proof of vehicle registration and proof of insurance before submitting to checks of their driving records and criminal backgrounds. Lyft’s driver requirements are similar in nature.

The ease with which drivers can complete the signup process has made Uber and Lyft popular options for college students, parents of school-aged children and retirees looking to earn extra income in their spare time. It hasn’t, unfortunately, fully weeded out problematic—or even downright dangerous—drivers.

Horror stories in this new age of digital taxis run the gamut from charges as severe as murder, theft, and assault to disruptive issues like dangerous driving and passenger abandonment. Safety risks exist in all forms of ground transportation, of course. 1.25 million people die in traffic accidents around the globe every year, and avoiding ride-sharing services is no guarantee of protection from these incidents.

However, in the case of executive transportation in particular, it’s worth remembering that the injury or death of a company’s principal could result in serious financial and logistics implications for the business itself. With so much on the line, asking important questions about how drivers are vetted and what security standards are maintained is a necessary part of fulfilling duty of care obligations.

In-Vehicle Experience

Think, for a minute, about the unique needs of executive travelers. While the average citizen may be most concerned with getting from Point A to Point B in the cheapest, fastest manner possible, high-level executives may rely on this time in transit to prepare for their next meeting or take a conference call.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone on their way to manage a multi-million, or even -billion dollar negotiation. Now, imagine yourself undertaking such a high-stakes situation after being transported to your destination by a soccer mom racing against traffic and treating Uber rides as her own personal social hour.  

Equilar’s 2017 median salary data puts a CEO’s hourly value at $5,750.00, assuming fifty 40-hour work weeks per year. From this perspective, the difference in cost between a digital taxi service and a travel solution geared towards executive travelers is minimal, relative to the cost of the traveler’s potential productivity while in the vehicle.

You may find that your travelers get lucky and enjoy this type of in-vehicle experience with a ride-sharing driver every once in a while. But it is just as likely—perhaps even more so—that they will be matched automatically with drivers who smoke heavily, who don’t maintain their vehicles or who are more concerned about turning over trips than providing an exceptional experience.

Consistency matters. Ride-sharing is unpredictable—which, for many executive travelers, is unacceptable.


Choosing the Right Option for Executive Transportation

Ultimately, there’s no absolute right or wrong answer to the question of choosing appropriate executive transportation. If your traveler needs to make a quick trip—perhaps to a restaurant a few blocks away—while on location, ride-sharing services may be a more appropriate choice than rolling out a fully-secured transportation solution.

However, if you’re concerned about keeping your traveler’s personal information secure, about driver vetting standards or about the need for a consistent in-car experience geared towards the needs of high-performance travelers, a solution like Savoya’s may be a better choice. Evaluate these factors and more when making your final decision on executive transportation.

Do you use ride-sharing services for your executive travelers? If so, do you share any of the concerns described above? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts.

Jon Hooton
Jon Hooton

Mr. Hooton serves as Savoya’s Vice President of Operations, giving him an insider’s perspective into the challenges faced by travel managers. His contributions are grounded in this insight, and emphasize travel and safety best practices for travel coordinators and the teams they serve.