DESPITE allegedly spending in excess of $8 million to woo voters, Lyft and Uber failed to convince residents of Austin, Texas to vote for Proposition 1, a set of rules that would have allowed passenger transport booking apps to continue using self-regulating with their own driver background checking system.
Fifty six per cent of those who voted opposed maintaining the current rules, and the city will now press ahead with plans to implement additional regulations, such as fingerprint scanning. Supporters of fingerprint scanning claim it to be more effective in screening for possible criminals. However, in opposition to that opinion, Uber and Lyft argued that fingerprinting relies on outdated databases and makes the expedient hiring of drivers more difficult.
The electorates decision in Austin could also have wider implications for passenger transport booking apps in other areas of the USA, as cities such as Miami and Los Angeles, who are both investigating how best to regulate them, watched Austin with interest.
As a consequence of the weekend’s vote, both Uber and Lyft have decided to suspend services indefinitely from today (Monday 9th May).
In a statement, Lyft said the company would be ‘pausing operations’: “The rules passed by City Council don’t allow true ridesharing to operate. Instead, they make it harder for part-time drivers, the heart of Lyft’s peer-to-peer model, to get on the road and harder for passengers to get a ride. Because of this, we have to take a stand for a long-term path forward that lets ridesharing continue to grow across the country.”
Uber also commented, saying:
Disappointment does not begin to describe how we feel about shutting down operations in Austin. We hope the City Council will reconsider their ordinance so we can work together to make the streets of Austin a safer place for everyone.
Following the ballot, Mayor Steve Adler said that the people of Austin had spoken loud. But he insisted that Uber and Lyft were still welcome to stay in the innovative and creative city of Austin.