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Uber and Lyft’s Financials Reveal Two Ride-Hailing Strategies



Discussing Uber’s 2019 financial results with analysts last week, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi used the word “focus” six times, and the word “discipline” three times in his opening remarks alone. And he dropped “profitability” four times, most notably predicting that Uber would move into the black at the end of this year—at least when measured as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, what analysts call EBITDA. Out of the chaos of Uber’s international business, which ranges from shared to premium ride-hail trips, to e-bikes, to e-scooters, to buses, to on-demand staffing, to food delivery, Khosrowshahi promised some actual money.

One week later, that promise is being used as a bludgeon against smaller ride-hailing rival Lyft. On its own call with investors late Tuesday, Lyft executives stuck to a prediction made last year: that it would reach profitability on an EBITDA basis by the end of 2021. Analysts hassled the company for its spending on sales and marketing (which Lyft predicts will be 20 percent of revenue this quarter), and the fact that it’s still losing gobs on money on rides, its main product.

Uber shares jumped 9.5 percent the day after it reported its earnings, and have inched higher since then. Lyft’s result topped Wall Street’s expectations, but its shares fell 10 percent Wednesday.

The stock market moves highlight a key debate on strategy within the industry: Is larger Uber, with its international market and multiple product lines, likely to win in the end? Or will the more focused Lyft, which has stuck to the US and Canada and remained focused on transportation, become the more stable business?

On its own, Uber’s rides business generated $742 million in adjusted earnings last quarter (not accounting for some operating and administrative expenses), nearly four times as much as the same period a year earlier. But while it grew its Eats business by 73 percent compared to last year, it lost some $461 million on the delivery service (again, not accounting for some expenses). Many analysts do generally approve the company’s decision to sell its Eats business in India to local competitor Zomato, which they take as a sign that Khosrowshahi is serious about the “discipline” thing. Overall, Uber lost $1.1 billion last quarter, 24 percent more than in the same quarter a year earlier.

Lyft’s quarterly revenue, meanwhile, hit $1 billion, and the company is moving more riders than ever. Still, Lyft lost $2.6 billion in 2019, more than double the year before. Chief Financial Officer Brian Roberts declined an analyst’s request to break that loss down by type of business—ride-hail vs. scooters vs. bikes.

At this point, many see Lyft’s smaller footprint and less diverse portfolio as a weakness. (The company’s market cap is $14.5 billion, compared with Uber’s $73 billion.) Lyft executives say it’s a strength. “Just remember: With our focus, we’re not exposed to the uncertainty or volatility of emerging markets or non-transportation segments,” Roberts said. “We’re focused on our profitable growth across our business.”

In both businesses, the days of “growth at all costs” seems to be over. (In fact, that’s what Khosrowshahi told investors.) It’s all about strategy, discipline, and making money now. In fact, Uber and Lyft seemed to have shifted perspectives in Silicon Valley, on Wall Street, and all over the globe. Investors seem more motivated to find companies with paths to profitability than they were, say, last spring—right before both ride-hail companies debuted on the public markets.

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Augmented Reality From the Driver’s Seat, and More Car News This Week



If you’re reading this, chances are you feel like you need more information. Welcome to the club. This week we followed a bunch of transportation players in search of more nuggets of knowledge. Retailers jumping on the ecommerce bandwagon are hoping to discover how to lose fewer deliveries, which is costing them tons of moolah. Concerned scientists are wondering whether the whizz-bang augmented reality making its way into your car might actually distract more than help. And Wall Street analysts are trying to figure out which competing transportation app has the best path to profitability—or if a path exists at all.

Plus: Look at this plane! It’s been a week; let’s get you caught up.

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Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

PSA of the Week

We hope you’re enjoying a long weekend. We also hope you’re not off-roading in Death Valley National Park, like an inconsiderate butthead. The National Park Service released photos this week of more than 130 miles of unauthorized 4×4 tracks, which have damaged protected areas near some of the park’s most popular sites. There are plenty of places you can off-road! For free! Get outta the protected areas, people!

Stat of the Week: 100,000*

The number of “robotaxi” rides that self-driving vehicle developer Aptiv and ride-hailer Lyft have completed in Las Vegas, according to the companies. There’s a reason for that asterisk: All those vehicles had a human safety driver behind the wheel, and that driver always controlled the car in parking lots and around hotels. But Lyft and Aptiv say the experiment has helped them discover how people use and react to self-driving vehicles—information both companies may be able to use once the technology is ready to lose that pesky human.

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News from elsewhere on the internet

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s canon:

Last time an airplane broke a record for a cross-Atlantic flight, we broke down why jets are traveling the route faster than ever.

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Airbus’ Blended Wing Maveric Hits the Skies



Since commercial air travel took off in the 1950s, much has changed—tighter seats, safer flights, the rise and fall of seat-back screens—but not the nature of the planes themselves. The tube-and-wing design, after all, is reasonably efficient and structurally sound. And what other shapes would fly? Cubes?

Probably not. But one idea that’s been in the air since the 1990s is catching a second wind, thanks to a new effort by Airbus. This week at the Singapore Air Show, the European planemaker revealed a little model of an aircraft it says could slash fuel consumption by 20 percent compared to today’s single-aisle jets. The Maveric—the name is an acronym for “model aircraft for validation and experimentation of robust innovative controls”—is the latest incarnation of the blended-wing body.

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As the name suggests, the triangular Maveric blurs the distinction between wing and body. The airfoil design generates lift across the entire fuselage rather than just the wings—meaning more power goes further—and reduces drag. In an industry where efficiency improvements generally come from tweaks to engine and aircraft design that provide 1 or 2 percent bumps, a 20 percent improvement would be massive. With engines above the fuselage, the Maveric would create less noise for those on the ground, and it could accommodate new propulsion systems, including hybrid and electric power plants. For passengers, the design would mean fewer window seats (boo!) but more possibilities for alternative seating configurations and more creative space allocation.

Airbus launched the design program in 2017, and the Maveric, which is 6.5 feet long with a 10.5-foot wingspan, first took flight last year. The rapid progress isn’t too surprising, as the design challenges of the blended-wing body are largely understood. The remotely piloted X-48 Hybrid Wing Body completed more than 100 flights before NASA and Boeing wrapped their joint project in 2012. And the Northrop B-2 bomber has been flying for nearly 30 years.

The interior of a Maveric-like plane would have fewer window seats but would allow for new seating configurations.

Courtesy of Airbus

But making the design viable for commercial use is a much different proposition than making it work as a military bomber, where concerns over cost and comfort are less pressing. The plane’s structure, with a larger interior, would need to accommodate different pressurization requirements, says University of Toronto aerodynamics researcher Thomas Reist. The trick will be making the plane strong enough to do that without adding weight and reducing efficiency. Stability is also an issue. “Without the horizontal and vertical tails that tube-and-wing aircraft have, maintaining a stable and controllable aircraft is much more challenging,” Reist says. The B-2 is notoriously difficult to fly, requiring constant computerized stabilization to keep it safely in the air. That’s why Airbus says controllability is the primary interest area for the Maveric program.


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Volkswagen’s Parking Tech Takes On Professional Stunt Driver




  • 30% of van drivers rank small parking spaces as their biggest annoyance
  • Innovative Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Park Assist technology designed to help drivers navigate tight spaces and avoid fines
  • Park Assist technology goes head-to-head against parking world record holder, Alastair Moffatt. Watch the video here:

Milton Keynes, UK – A third of UK van drivers rank small parking spaces as their biggest annoyance, according to Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles*. To help van drivers navigate these tight spaces, the brand offers innovative Park Assist technology.

But how good is Park Assist? Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles enlisted the help of parking world record holder and professional stunt driver, Alastair Moffatt, to put it to the test. To watch the full video, please visit:

Finding a suitably sized parking space for vans is more than just a frustration, with UK van drivers being fined an average of £24 million a year for parking incorrectly**.

To help customers overcome tight parking spaces and tough parking regulations, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles offers Park Assist technology across its van range, with the aim of reducing stress and enabling the driver to easily and safely park the van in its designated space.

To see if Park Assist can really park perfectly every time, professional stunt driver and parking world record holder, Alastair Moffatt, put it to the test, pitting more than 25 years of experience against the technology in the ultimate parking challenge.

Both Alastair and Park Assist were tasked with completing a parallel park within a space of 7.5-metres – just a little larger than the 5.9-metre length of the Volkswagen Crafter – with an added twist that Alastair would be completing his manoeuvre as a handbrake turn. The result was impressive with both successful mastering the Art of Parking, although Park Assist was certainly the more relaxing option.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ Park Assist technology uses ultrasonic sensors in the front bumper which scan the space to see whether it is big enough. After reverse gear has been selected, the technology then puts the van into the best starting position and steers automatically into the space. The driver does not need to steer at any point but remains in control of the vehicle working the accelerator, brake and clutch.

Sarah Cox, head of marketing at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles commented: “Our Working With You brand promise is designed to help Volkswagen customers in all aspects of owning a van and part of that is offering class-leading technologies such as Park Assist.

“We want to help our customers park their vans in the safest and most accurate way so that they can avoid parking fines and reduce stress. The Park Assist technology was a perfect match for Professional Stunt Driver, Alastair Moffatt, and a slightly less hair-raising manoeuvre!”

Alastair Moffatt, who owns the world record for tightest single, double, triple and reverse parallel park, said: “I was really impressed with how nimble the Volkswagen Crafter proved to be – handbrake turning such a big vehicle isn’t always easy. I’ve spent years mastering the art of parking but taking on Park Assist was still a real challenge because it was 100 per cent accurate every time. I really had to be on the top of my game to match it.”

For more details on Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ award-winning range of products and services, or to find your nearest Van Centre, please visit


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