Lyft ditches mustache, takes aim at Uber

Lyft LED taxi light
Source: Lyft

Lyft is growing up.

Today, the ride-hailing company is dropping its iconic pink mustache in favor of a "smart Amp" that will match drivers to hailers through colored LED lights.

Co-founder John Zimmer said this was a long time coming. "The pink mustache was an amazing way to launch the brand. But it was only meant to be part of our launch for a few weeks or months. But it ended up lasting about two years. Now we're ready to take it to the next level," he said.

The next level is colorful, Bluetooth-enabled and can display personalized messages to riders.

Here's how it works. Instead of squinting through traffic to look for a license plate that matches the one listed in your app — or awkwardly hop in the wrong car — the new Amp will display a certain color. Riders can tap a button in the Lyft app that will display the same color. Either look for the car with the corresponding color or hold your smartphone above your head like your own modern-day taxi light and let your driver find you.

Zimmer says the new Amp will allow Lyft to save riders and drivers those last few minutes and create a better in-car experience. But, he tells us, it'll eventually be much more than that. On the back of the device, there's another LED-screen that faces the driver and passenger. It can display personalized messages, like "Welcome Deirdre" or "Go Leafs Go" (which would delight this Canuck).

"Think of it like a platform," Zimmer says. "First, safety and ease of use. Then [it can be used] for different holidays and events in your personal life. From there, it's the first time you have this in-app device that can be connected and we can change at any time."

Lyft's big reveal

With his background in hospitality, Zimmer said it was important that the Amp brought some fun to the ride-hailing experience. "It brings humanity into transportation, which I think is different than an update that focuses people's attention by staring down at the app."

Zimmer was referring to his larger rival's recent push to enhance the in-car experience for its passengers. Instead of a new piece of hardware, Uber went for a total app revamp — its biggest update in four years. It introduced new features designed to keep riders using it as they're driven around. There's access to Snapchat, Yelp and Pandora, and it can connect to your own digital calendar to identify meeting locations.

Competition has always been fierce between Lyft and Uber. If the first battle was fought on the streets, the next one will be fought in the actual car as both companies look to reshape the ride-sharing experience.

Lyft is still a distant second in the ride-hailing market in the U.S. But as it matures and drops the pink mustache, the company is also getting bolder and more aggressive at taking on Uber. Today it also announced a new ad campaign taking aim at its competition. Check it out for yourself below.