Lyft’s new VP of data science, Chris Pouliot, previously led the data analysis team at Netflix, which is known for utilizing the heck out of its user data. He’s got big plans for Lyft, too. "We can use data to provide more accurate [estimated times of arrival] when a passenger requests a ride, to set high expectations and provide a better user experience," Pouliot told VentureBeat in December. "The success or failure of the business is highly correlated to how the company uses data." He also hopes to make an algorithm that predicts the likelihood that someone nearby will need a car in the next three minutes. That way, each individual is sent a ride that’s convenient for them as well as the entire user base. The drivers-as-friends shtick might get a software boost, too: Pouliot imagines that a Facebook connection could tell passengers about interests they have in common with their driver.
Uber has a current job listing for a "leading data scientist," so it could be that they’re still trying to get their own Pouliot-level analytics whiz.