In the recent past, ride sharing apps Uber and Lyft have had their share of tragedies. They vow to regulate themselves by putting stricter rules on drivers, using fingerprint background checks and emblems on cars. For at least one US city, that’s not enough.
Voters in Austin, Texas rejected their plans. The vote was 56% against Uber and Lyft’s self-regulation, 44% for it. As a result, Uber and Lyft threaten to cut off all service in the Austin/Travis County area. Major Steve Adler wants the companies to remain in Austin and has invited them to the negotiation table. The problem is there are different rules for ride sharing drivers and local cabbies. At first, the city government allowed Uber to perform their own background checks. But in December 2015, the City Council insisted on stricter checks, and Uber and Lyft threatened to leave Austin. In fact, Lyft and Uber stated they will discontinue services for Austin effective Monday, May 9, 2016. Uber and Lyft leaders say the city’s background checks are unnecessary and troublesome. Local leaders say such background checks add an extra layer of security in an insecure world. Uber and Lyft spent $8 million dollars on a campaign urging voters to see things their way.
This is a tough call. Yes, you need as much security as you can get in 2016 America. But on the other hand, you want to give businesses room to govern themselves, as long as it’s within reasonable limits. And other major markets, like Los Angeles and Miami, are paying close attention to this Austin situation. I hope mayor Adler can bring both sides to the negotiation table and come to a conclusion. I wouldn’t want Uber or Lyft to pull out one of the fastest-growing cities in the US. What message would that send to other US cities, who are watching this case like hawks? Can Uber and Austin work it out?
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