Even after the departure of industry leaders Uber and Lyft, ¬¬Austin continues to make progress with other ride-hailing platforms, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said during a Texas Tribune Festival panel this weekend.
Speaking as part of the panel “Rideshare’s Road Forward,” Adler pointed to the multiple ride-hailing options that have entered the market since Uber and Lyft decided to leave the market in May after voters rejected their $9.1 million bid to overturn the city’s rules for ride-hailing companies. Among the ride-hailing services to enter the market since then are RideAustin, Fasten, Getme, Fare, InstaRyde and Wingz.
Though he defended Uber and Lyft’s decision to leave Austin, Mayor Adler spent most of the panel discussing the possibility of new rideshare solutions.
“Quite frankly, I think we're innovating too quickly for Uber and Lyft,” Adler said. “We’re coming up with an innovative and creative way – a new market way, a next century way, a new sharing economy way -- to make sure that a choice is available to the citizens and the community.”
At issue in the May election were the City Council’s rules regarding ride-hailing services, which included a requirement that nearly all drivers with ride-hailing apps undergo fingerprint-based background checks by Feb. 1, 2017, instead of using the name-based checks Uber and Lyft prefer.
Adler said the rules came about because of public safety concerns. Before the City Council passed its rules, Adler consulted with Austin police Chief Art Acevedo and officials from the department of health and safety. They “told us it’s better to have a biometric link with the driver for no other reason than it helps with post investigation and prosecution,” Adler said. Fingerprint and biometric records are more effective than logging the names and IDs of drivers, he said.
Uber requires background checks and biometric records for all its drivers in Houston and New York, which was brought up during the panel. Uber in San Antonio doesn’t require fingerprinting, but allows drivers to submit that data on a voluntary basis.
“The people in this city are trying to fashion what is best for them,” Adler said. “We have Fare, and RideAustin, Fasten and Getme. The market’s going to pick who the winners and losers are. I just want people here today to know that when you leave this talk today, you don’t have to walk.”
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