Unless you’re walking up and down the Strip, Las Vegas is a difficult city to navigate without a car. The city’s taxi drivers are known to overcharge customers and have so far kept the Uber car-service app out of Vegas.
A new service called Shift (formerly Project 100) is fusing the offerings of Uber, Zipcar, a bike share, and public transportation.
The Las Vegas company launched last year after placing an order for 100 Tesla sedans, which will be used for on-demand car and driver services via an app serving the Strip and downtown areas. In addition to electric-bike sharing and a trolley service (think party bus), Shift’s all-electric fleet will include the Renault Twizy and Smart cars. The company is testing its service with a small beta group this summer and plans to do a staggered launch in the fall.
“The challenge for companies like Uber in Las Vegas is their black-car service charges are based on time and distance and are often below the regulated minimum fare,” Shift founder and CEO Zach Ware told Quartz. “UberX and Lyft are driven by non-regulated, non-employee drivers and also charge by time and distance.”
The taxi industry has a stronghold in Las Vegas, which relies heavily on tourism dollars. To reduce competition for the industry, the Southern Nevada livery services require a high minimum hourly rate for limos and other car services—around $40/hour at a one-hour minimum—which prevents companies like Uber from serving customers with shorter trips at reduced rates.
To get around this, Shift hires its own drivers and operates on a membership basis, where each user has a set number of service hours and pickups. Premium members could eventually have access to private jet service through a partnership with SurfAir.
For now, Shift’s 30-person team is focused on ground transportation. Shift plans to increase the number of vehicles it offers as membership grows and demand rises. That means that the initial order of Tesla cars it uses will be delivered in waves. The company is launching in Las Vegas with plans to expand to other cities. It has raised $10 million in funding from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh who sees the project as a key part of his investment in downtown Las Vegas, where the ecommerce site owned by Amazon is headquartered.