Inflation-Strapped Rideshare Drivers Get Cash Offer from Hyundai and Firefly. This is an IoT-meets-Advertising Startup Backed by Google Ventures. These types of cash offers will propel critical EV adoption and growth.
Gas Prices and Chip Shortages Push Costs
With gas prices reaching an all-time high and chip shortages pushing the cost of vehicles to stratospheric levels, the rideshare industry is fast approaching a crisis point. Unfortunately, the crisis’s point is amplified, ironically enough, by low unemployment levels, which often disincentive drivers with easy access to jobs paying competitive rates.
The cities most dependent on rideshare services will also feel this pinch when pulling the camera back.
Firefly — A Google Ventures-Backed Startup
One possible solution was just announced by Firefly, a Google Ventures-backed startup that’s not actually in the rideshare space. Instead, the company creates and manages high-res smart screens on taxis and rideshare services operating in cities across the US.
If you’ve ordered a Lyft or Uber in Los Angeles, New York, and other metro areas, chances are you rode with a driver partnered with Firefly, visible by the large cartop display screen. These screens not only display ads, but because they essentially have all the functionality of a giant iPhone, they can serve customizable ads.
Having customizable local area ads serves the entire local area with an audience that can bring in revenue if they choose. In addition, ads can cover current environmental conditions with relevant ads. For example, if it’s a cold and rainy day, you might see a cartop ad suggesting you try a nearby ramen joint.
Firefly is Digital Ads-Meet-the Internet of Things
So basically, Firefly is digital ads-meet-the Internet of Things. Over the years, rideshare drivers and fleet owners have used this option to earn extra income during their shifts. This new announcement, a partnership with Hyundai Motor America, takes this functionality to the next level.
“The idea is to leverage the revenue we already share with rideshare drivers to help finance new vehicles pre-integrated with our smart screens,” founder and CEO Kaan Gunay explained in a recent conversation.
Qualified Drivers Lease Options
Dubbed Hyundai Drive-by Firefly, the program gives qualified drivers the option of leasing a new Hyundai while earning cash benefits that can total up to $3,600 a year on the high end. That’s about enough to cover most of the monthly lease fee – and more than cover the recent increase in gas costs. The program also covers the car giant’s EV and hybrid vehicles line, which is very much by design.
“We’re thrilled that Hyundai Motor America shares our vision to totally reinvent the future mobility while using programs like ours to grow adoption of zero-emission vehicles,” Kaan tells me.
Good for the Environment
While EVs and hybrids are good for the environment, their high purchase price can be bad for many people’s wallets. State and federal tax rebates somewhat reduce that cost – at the high end, a California buyer can get a rebate of up to $9500 total from the state and feds – but even the most affordable EVs can have a starting price between $30,000-$40,000.
Kaan’s vision is not just to give advertisers a new way of connecting with consumers. Ultimately, he wants to help build the architecture for smart cities that are sustainably green, and digital ads subsidize public transportation.
To illustrate that goal, Kaan showed me slides from a recent vision for the future of mobility that Firefly created in partnership with Hyundai. These companies imagine cities where public transportation is powered by autonomous EV vehicles, which look very different from cars today, architected for comfort and mass transit, subsidized by dynamic advertising displays that wrap around the entire body.
Optimized Vehicle Traffic in Real-Time
Incorporated into a network that encompasses a whole urban area, location-aware technology like this can help create smart cities where vehicle traffic can be optimized in real-time. This trend can be further accelerated when vehicles reach a point where autonomous robotaxis can freely operate within cities.
The Hyundai/Firefly initiative suggests a path where robotaxis might eventually be offered entirely free to end-users, fully subsidized by advertising.
Transforming How We Live and Work
“We’re at an inflection point where IoT, mobility, and ad tech can come together to transform how we live and work,” as Gunay put it. “And the need to experiment with new ways to accelerate EV adoption is more crucial than it’s ever been before.”
While it’s too early to say how well this specific program will fare, it’s exciting to see an established automotive company working with an agile startup on new ideas like this. At the very least, it’s a significant test case for other IoT-powered collaborations which also seek to reinvent how cities can sustainably operate in the future.
Much Needed Revenue for Inflation Weary Drivers
In the meantime, the program offers much-needed revenue for inflation-weary drivers and owners of rideshare fleets. In the program’s first phase, Firefly is enrolling drivers and fleet operators who purchase new Hyundai vehicles through this program.
Participants can go here to request interest in the pilot program.
Image Credit: Mike; Pexels; Thank you!
Angela Ruth is a freelance writer, journalist and content marketing/SEO consultant in Silicon Valley. She is a member of the YEC and a startup aficionado.