Garrett van Ryzin, a professor at Columbia Business School and Cornell Tech, will lead Lyft’s new Marketplace Labs, where he’ll oversee a team of applied scientists and technologists working on enhancing the current ride-sharing experience and better integrating Lyft with public transportation systems. He will report directly to Lyft’s new VP of engineering, Luc Vincent, who has been tasked with leading the company’s quest to develop its own self-driving car technology.
In an interview, van Ryzin said his goal is to “make the market more efficient — so all the things that have to do with matching and dispatching of drivers and pricing of the market and providing information to help balance the market.”
In other words, everything that makes Lyft Lyft: the speed at which a driver responds to your ride request, the length of time it takes to arrive at your location, and the fare you pay at the end of the trip. While at Uber, van Ryzin helped make the argument that surge pricing was a tool to increase rider efficiency rather than a back-handed way for Uber to make more money. He also saw the potential for the same model to change pricing strategies in other industries. Of course, most users just saw it as a necessary evil, even as they groused about having to pay more money during periods of peak demand. (Lyft has its own version of surge pricing that it calls Prime Time.)
And while van Ryzin is working on improving marketplace efficiency, he’ll also be pondering larger, more consequential issues for Lyft, such as its place in the city of tomorrow. This past summer, Lyft announced that it would begin hiring hundreds of engineers to develop its own autonomous technology. It also described its product of the future as an “open platform,” in which any of its partners in the self-driving space could plug into and begin offering trips. Van Ryzin said his job will be to optimize that process.