Is The War on Lyft and Uber Costing Us Our Freedom?

driver-hero-1-1440-900Uber and Lyft are facing countless lawsuits across the country in just about every single state where they have established a market.  While taxi cab commissions are eager to squash any competition – should we as the public be worried about losing more than just a cheaper alternative for rides to and from home?

Lyft and Uber connect individuals with other non-professional drivers.  Its basically a more modern version of asking your friends for gas money where instead your friends are virtual strangers.  While regulators fear the influx of new drivers poses a safety problem for passengers, I’m worried that outright baring this form of transportation could have drastic measures for something millions do on a daily basis: provide friends with rides.

New York City is already warning patrons from using Lyft and Uber even if it’s free.  The New York Taxi and Limousine commission has been aggressively pulling over drivers accused of operating such services, while often times seizing cars of people just dropping off their wives at work (And this one).  Regulation in this market could also affect slug lines in DC that helps keep 1000s of cars off the road.  Slugging is where people commuting into the city stop to pickup other passengers even though they are total strangers.  How is this different from Lyft or Uber in the eyes of the law?

Taxi cab companies in Arlington have gone so far as sue Lyft and Uber claiming it’s for rider safety. The taxi cab companies go so far as state that “Companies such as Uber and Lyft have proven their lack of concern for [passengers] by not requiring adequate insurance and background checks. That’s why we filed this complaint in Fairfax Circuit Court.”

The apps behind Lyft and Uber track the time you are picked up, the exact location you are requesting to be picked up from, who is picking you up, and will give you an estimate of the cost.  In addition both Uber and Lyft require extensive background checks and have a $1million dollar umbrella insurance in case anything did happen during the ride.  How exactly is this not looking out in the best interest for the rider?  While this will not guarantee anything bad will happen during your ride, at least you will have more information about your ride, location, and driver should things turn sour.  Try that with a cab.

The convenience of the service aside, I’m worried that as regulators clamp down on rider service they will not only stifle competition (why didn’t the cab industry think of the on demand app first?) but unintentionally ban ride sharing in general.  Having to prove the friend you dropped off wasn’t a Uber ride (as what’s been happening in NYC) would both be a hassle and a violation of privacy.

I’m all for level headed laws – for instance require commercial companies offering ride sharing to have a minimum insurance or perform background checks.  Competition in this market is good – I take more cab rides now then I did before ride sharing existed and I’m sure I’m not the only one.  Lyft and Uber’s busiest times are during bar closing times – regulators should keep in mind how many drunks are kept the road through these services when deciding what to do with these companies.

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