I was taking a look at the new Uber Driver API and trying to understand the possibilities with the API and some of the motivations behind Uber's launch of the API. According to Uber:
"Our Driver API lets you build services and solutions that make the driver experience more productive and rewarding. With the driver's permission, you can use trip data, earnings, ratings and more to shape the future of the on-demand economy."
This provides an interesting opportunity for partners to step up and help build useful apps that Uber drivers can leverage in their worlds, helping them be more successful in their work.
The first dimension of the Uber Driver API I find interesting is that it is not an API that is about their core business, ridesharing. It is focused on making their drivers more successful and about developing tools and integrations that make their lives easier. I could see something like this evolving to other platforms like Airbnb and other sharing/gig economy platforms, helping operators make sense of their worlds while also strengthening partnerships and hopefully their relationships with operators along the way.
The second dimension I find interesting is thinking about why Uber is publishing their Driver API. At first glance, it is all about making their drivers happy — something Uber needs a lot of help with currently. However, once you think a little more about it, you can start to see a bigger picture that Uber is looking to paint of their drivers. The company's leverage over drivers has proven to only go so far, and they need to understand more about the lives of their drivers. If they can invite corporate partners to do their taxes and potentially other key tasks in their lives, a greater picture of their life will come into focus.
If an Uber driver is also a Lyft driver, the Uber Driver API gives them more of a look into their competitor's accounting. They also get a better understanding of what else their drivers have going on, and other ways they can increase their leverage over them. It's fascinating to think about. Right now, all the examples Uber providers are tax-related, but I'm sure other types of partners will emerge — it is why you do APIs. Open up an API and people will line up innovate for you, helping you understand the dimensions of your driver's life. It is a fascinating look at why you would do APIs, and how there is almost always more than one dimension to why a company will deploy an API.
I am sure there are other reasons I am not considering here. Maybe now that I've planted the seed in my brain, I'll come up with some other incentives for why Uber operates their APIs as they do; it is fascinating stuff to unpack.