California Wants to Legitimize Ride Sharing
As taxi drivers rallied in San Francisco today against “unlicensed, uninspected, unregulated and under-insured taxis” and a San Francisco International Airport spokesman said it was citing and arresting ride-sharing drivers (Lyft and Sidecar told AllThingsD they don’t know of any arrests), the California Public Utilities Commission went in a different direction.
The CPUC proposed a non-final decision that would create a new transportation category for for-profit ride sharing and create stronger rules around it, including company licensing, driver criminal background checks and $1 million per-incident insurance coverage. Some of these practices are already instituted by the companies involved — they have all obtained insurance, and they screen drivers voluntarily.
The regulator body wants to call services including Lyft, Sidecar, InstantCab and Uber’s UberX “transportation network companies.” From the filing:
“The Commission is aware that TNCs are a nascent industry. Innovation does not, however, alter the Commission’s obligation to protect public safety, especially where, as here, the core service being provided — passenger transportation on public roadways — has potential safety impacts for third parties and property.”
Uber and Sidecar had previously argued that they shouldn’t be regulated as transportation services because they are simply online information services. The CPUC didn’t agree with that.
The CPUC had previously asked Lyft, Sidecar and Uber to cease and desist, but they negotiated an interim operating agreement instead.
CPUC approval is a big win for the companies, which are facing another cease-and-desist situation in Los Angeles (which is indeed located in California, but taxis and limo-type services are regulated differently and everyone wants to regulate ride sharing).
The companies are also currently banned at SFO, and Sidecar today shared with AllThingsD a notice it sent to drivers advising them not to accept trips to the airport.