Ideas & Insights / All Grantee Impact Stories / Ideas & Insights Grantee Impact Story

Driver’s Seat Puts Data – and Power – in Gig Workers’ Hands

Tasnuva Orchi — Former Senior Data Analyst, Innovation, The Rockefeller Foundation

It is 4:40 a.m. and I receive my daily notification text from Lyft: my dad has started his shift. 

Our family immigrated to Queens, New York, in 2001, attracted by the borough’s large Bengali American community. The consistent need for drivers in New York City and the flexibility of rideshare jobs initially drew my father to this career path. 

Growing up, my siblings and I would rise at 5 a.m. for our subway commute to school. Despite the early hour, our dad was already well into his workday. 

But the predawn start wasn’t his biggest challenge. Instead, it was a lack of insights into what hours and locations would be most profitable. Working as a Data Scientist at The Rockefeller Foundation, I’ve often wondered how the Foundation’s work could benefit rideshare drivers like my dad.

When I began learning about the work Driver’s Seat was doing, I knew instantly how impactful it would be. 

Drivers lined up, waiting for passengers

Using Data to Boost Incomes and Agency

A driver-owned cooperative supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, Driver’s Seat helps rideshare and delivery workers gain access to industry statistics through their app – including which ride and delivery apps are the most lucrative and which trips make the most money.

It then creates a personalized analysis for each driver to help them better plan their earning strategies.

What stood out about Driver’s Seat was the innovative way they combined deep commitment to worker organizing and top-notch data science,” said Kevin O’Neil, Managing Director of Innovation at The Rockefeller Foundation.


  • At a moment when there's a great deal of worry about the impacts of artificial intelligence on the labor market, it's inspiring to see gig workers using AI to make their working lives better, and shift the balance of power toward greater equity.
    Kevin O'Neil
    Managing Director, Innovation, The Rockefeller Foundation

Here's How It Works

Following The Rockefeller Foundation’s initial grant, Driver’s Seat received further investment and support from impact investors like Impact America Fund, Draper Richards Kaplan, Mozilla, the Ford Foundation, and the Omidyar Network.

This has allowed Driver’s Seat to begin work with other gig worker advocacy and organizing groups – including Rideshare Drivers United, Los Deliveristas Unidos, and Jobs with Justice.

Driver’s Seat is also collaborating with city and state officials to bring gig worker voices into transportation planning to create safe community spaces for workers to rest and recharge – as well as developing incentives for drivers to go green.

Here is how it works:

At the beginning of a work shift, drivers check into the free Driver’s Seat app to see which gig apps (Lyft, Uber, Doordash, etc.) are paying best in their area.

The app then begins to automatically log drivers’ time, miles, and pay by syncing – with permissions – into the gig apps they’re using.

At the end of the day, drivers receive custom analytics within the Driver’s Seat app on their daily earnings and trends.

The app also allows drivers to track and advance daily, monthly, and even yearly income goals.

 Users of Driver’s Seat app can become cooperative members and are eligible for a share of the cooperative’s profits, as well as to serve on the cooperative’s elected board.

The Driver’s Seat app allows rideshare and delivery drivers to better control over their own data and earnings through insights into the best times, locations, and more to reach their goals.
Driver's Seat Cooperative member Bonnie Bueno shares her data and her story with a room of transportation planners at the Urbanism Next 2023 Conference.

Helping Drivers Chart a Better Course

For San Diego-based driver Bonnie Bueno, the Driver’s Seat app has provided more transparency into what she’s actually earning on rides.

“It’s important to me to have a clear and quick picture on how much I’m making,” Bueno said.

“With Driver’s Seat, it’s all on one page and uses a pie chart which is great because pictures are easy for me. When you see your pay on Uber, they make it look different and that benefits them.”


“The gig apps keep taking, and that needs to change and stop. They’re not just taking away our pay, they’re also taking away our choices. And there’s a lot of markets where they’ll deactivate you if you don’t accept a certain number of orders.”

Bueno drives for Uber, Spark, Shipt, and Grubhub. From the insights shared on her Driver’s Seat app page, she has begun experimenting with longer rides to see if they actually increase her pay, which at times can be as low as $4 an hour.

She credits Driver’s Seat with not only empowering drivers but also prioritizing their privacy and the privacy of their data.

The Driver’s Seat app is currently available in over 30 U.S. cities with plans to expand even more – including to New York City – by the end of 2023.

Between September 2021 and December 2022, Driver’s Seat’s user base more than doubled, from 2,000 to more than 5,000. Drivers using the app reported an average of 13 percent increase in income.

With over 5 million trips tracked since Driver’s Seat’s 2019 founding, their pool of data is growing, helping provide more accurate insights for rideshare drivers.

Empowering Essential, But Undervalued, Workers

Some 36 percent of all U.S. employees are gig workers–temporary, contract, or freelancers. Gig workers predominantly earn low wages, and are overwhelmingly people of color.

Over 62 percent of drivers consider ridesharing their full-time job, and juggle multiple apps to earn a living wage.

Because independent work does not fit neatly into labor statistics, it tends to be underreported and understudied, labor researchers note.

“The fundamental challenge gig workers face is how to have the power and the voice they need to shape the gig economy in ways that benefit them and their communities,” says Hays Witt, Driver’s Seat’s CEO. “These individuals are doing essential jobs that are really hard and really important, but really undervalued and underpaid in our society.”

Witt has a long history working at the intersections of social justice, labor organizing, and policy innovation.

“When Uber first hit the scene, I immediately thought this is going to be a new challenge for people in the service sector,” Witt noted. “What can we do to help them build the power to change it?”

hands holding cellphone displaying location notifications
Senior Data Associate at The Rockefeller Foundation Tasnuva Orchi receiving her daily notification her dad has begun his shift as a rideshare driver. (Photo credit Tasnuva Orchi)

Shifting from Anecdotal Evidence to Data

Corporate rideshare apps such as Lyft, Uber, and Doordash are constantly collecting data on their millions of drivers, including customer hot spots, peak work hours, traffic patterns, and estimated hourly wages – data that, when analyzed, would be a critical resource for drivers’ incomes but isn’t made available to them.

Instead, before an app like Driver’s Seat, anecdotes and word of mouth were often the only way for drivers to share crucial information.

What boroughs are best for finding customers? When and where is traffic worst? What is the most profitable time to drive, and for how long?

These are the questions my dad and his friends constantly discussed.

Driver’s Seat saw this as an opportunity to organize and empower.

“Gig work requires so much complex and constant decision-making that has real financial consequences,” says Witt. “Workers have to decide which app to use, when they should work, where to work, if they should take an order, if this is a good ride – it’s hundreds of decisions a day while also interacting with customers, parking, finding addresses, driving, and more.”

“On top of all these decisions, drivers are up against very powerful gig app algorithms that are trying to shape their decision-making in the companies’ interests. At Driver’s Seat, we’re trying to make it easier for drivers to make choices that actually benefit them and boost their earnings by applying that same technology, that same sophisticated data science – but on behalf of workers.”

  • Driver's Seat has helped me quickly see the value of my time for the work I've chosen to do to support my family and community. With the app, I'm able to simply look at my week and plan out my hours and days to earn the most I can.
    Driver's Seat Member, Rideshare Driver for 7.5 Years