Innovative public transportation companies Uber and Lyft may face a battle over regulation in the upcoming session of the North Carolina General Assembly.
The “ride-sharing” companies contract with qualifying drivers to offer a new kind of taxi-like service for the public.
Legislators’ concerns range from the safety of users to capturing revenue for the state through income taxes on the drivers. The taxicab industry is also likely to weigh in regarding its competitors.
The Revenue Laws Committee will look into possible regulations for Uber and Lyft in the session set to open next month.
Charlotte’s city government elected not to take up the issue earlier this year. Uber is active in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Wilmington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Fayetteville, as well as surrounding areas.
Whether the recommendation will be for Uber and Lyft to fall under current taxicab regulations or for the regulations on taxicabs to be eased remains to be seen, but some legislators want to see both traditional taxicab companies and ride-sharing services held to the same standards.
Specifically, questions have been raised about the insurance requirements for the companies. The issue has often pushed by the taxi industry. Proponents of the ride-sharing businesses say the company does provide adequate insurance on its drivers.
Drivers for Uber are required to carry the same liability coverage every other driver in North Carolina is required to have. An additional $1.5 million in insurance is placed on the drivers by Uber while they are active in driving for the company.
The drivers have to pass a background check, have a good driving record and a four-door vehicle newer than 2005.
An interview with an Uber driver sheds light on how the service is different from a traditional taxi company – and how it has its own safeguards for passengers and drivers alike.
“Robert” left driving a cab in Raleigh for over a decade to become an Uber driver almost a year ago, a move he says he does not regret.
Robert did not want his identity revealed over concerns of backlash from the taxicab industry in the city. “I drove a cab for a long time so I still know a lot of those guys,” he said.
Robert said that he saw the writing on the wall and knew that what Uber was offering to people would be attractive, as well as making his work safer for him.
After a ride request comes in over the Uber phone app, on which a user has already set up an account, the driver is notified and accepts the ride. That driver’s photo, name, vehicle make and model, and license tag are available to the user.
Also, the driver’s location is visible on a map in the app and an estimated time of arrival is shown. Riders can also get a fare estimate, and the fare will be drawn directly from their credit card, with no cash involved.
This is part of what makes it so attractive to Robert.
“It’s safer for you, you know who you are meeting. It’s safer to me because I don’t have to worry about someone jumping out of the cab or putting a gun to my head,” he said.
Cabbies sometimes get robbed for the cash they accumulate in their car over the course for a day, but Uber fares are paid by credit card, not cash.
When a ride is finished the rider gets a message with the final fare, no tip necessary, and the rider is able to rate the driver.
The driver’s rating is also visible with the driver photo and name before pick-up.
Also Uber riders are liable for damages to the driver’s car, such as vomiting after a night of heavy drinking.
Robert only has to document the damage and have it professionally cleaned. The cost of the cleaning is taken off of the rider’s credit card by Uber.