back to article Lyft, Uber throw Texas-sized tantrum over Austin driver law

Uber and Lyft have suspended operations in Austin, Texas, after failing to amend a city law requiring drivers to be fingerprinted. The two ride-booking app makers said on Monday that they were closing shop in the Texas state capital after voters rejected their bid to amend a city law mandating fingerprinting for all drivers …

  1. Kimo

    Can't afford $50/driver for background checks, but can afford $5 million to fight the requirement? Do they have 100,000 drivers in Austin? That would be about 1 in 9 people in the city...

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      They are just mad that their plan to buy the election failed.

    2. TVU Silver badge

      "Can't afford $50/driver for background checks, but can afford $5 million to fight the requirement? Do they have 100,000 drivers in Austin? That would be about 1 in 9 people in the city..."

      Exactly, they are protesting a bit too much. Don't know about Lyft but here in the UK, especially in London, there's been no end of stories about Uber using sex pests and those with criminal records as drivers because of inadequate driver vetting procedures. Therefore, this move by the the city of Austin seems quite a reasonable response to insufficient background checking.

      1. auburnman

        I thought to work for Uber in London they needed a professional driving licence/certificate which would put them at least on par with minicab operators in terms of vetting? Any capital dwellers know more details?

    3. big_D Silver badge

      So, basically, they are saying that they don't give a fig about passenger safety... Makes me really want to use their services!

      But not really a surprise, they are letting most of their drivers in German drive with no valid insurance! (A criminal offence)

    4. BillG
      Paris Hilton

      "Unfortunately, the rules passed by city council don't allow true ridesharing to operate," Lyft said in announcing its closure... The dial-a-ride app-makers have been in almost constant battles with local officials in major cities around the world, usually over charges that the ride-sharing services violate taxi codes.

      Despite Uber's and Lyft 's best efforts, they cannot convince people that ridesharing is not another name for taxi service.

  2. goldcd

    So, what can we take away from this?

    Lyft and Uber play "hardball". Yes, yes they do.

    *shudders at the sheer balls on them*

    Now, back to the real world.

    What does it mean?

    Well all Lyft and Uber employees in Austin are now unemployed - actually, I'm not even sure they were employed in the first place technically... well let's just settle on them no longer having their previous income.

    I can't help but notice a flaw in the Lyft/Uber business model.

    Sure, there's maybe a small market of people that wish to Uber themselves between cities (sorry Lyft, for the verbiation), but bluntly all these markets exist within cities.

    People want to move about them, people wish to earn a living moving people about them - taxis and customers as they used to be called.

    Taking home your ball just pisses everybody off in the area though.

    I want to "Uber" to work. Well now you can't.

    I want to be an "Uber" and pick up some cash in the evening. Well now you can't.

    You don't think somebody else is going to step in and take your place?

    Don't think that app is replacing the deleted Uber one on your clients phones?

    HTF do you think you're ever going to get Austin back now? Seriously?

    You've just burnt both your customers and your 'employees'.

    Hey, I'm sure it bolsters your "brass-ball-credentials" in other cities - but the people of Austin?

    *NOBODY* likes you now, nor will ever more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They aren't unemployed

      Austin has a thriving local ride share company that has no problem with this new law, so they will leave Uber/Lyft and go with this company.

      That's really how it should work, rather than a giant company like Uber there should be local/regional companies, with a company acting as a middleman that provides an app that links you to all of them. Personally I hope this kind of thing happens in other places and Uber acts like a spoiled child taking its ball home. They think Austin will come crawling back, they won't and they won't look back. Uber will quickly realize they don't have the upper hand because the only thing they have going for them is an app installed on a bunch of phones. If Facebook or Google decided to fill this "middleman" role I was talking about Uber would suddenly be the little guy and disappear in a few years.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: They aren't unemployed

        I don't know if that model works. It doesn't seem to, for the taxi companies here in Orlando.

        They all have the same busted-ass app, just with different branding. This is an app that can't:

        1. take your location from the phone GPS

        2. take your location from the address you type in

        3. take your location from selecting it in Google Maps

        4. take your location from the GPS coordinates you type in

        Instead it gives them a semi-random location near city hall, and you get blackballed for not being there when the taxi shows up. It's "spectacularly incompetent". This is from experimentation when we weren't in a rush to get home, so a friend and I tried 3 taxi companies, with an Android and an Apple phone.

        The app company doesn't apparently give a shit. It's sold the apps and got the money.

        The taxi company doesn't apparently give a shit. Their attitude is "OH COMPUTERS!"

        Uber seems to work because it owns the entire stack and understands the technology.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They aren't unemployed

          Oh please, because you have an example with one shitty app that Uber has some sort of programming gods that are the only ones who can figure out how to use GPS or a typed address to get your location?

          That just proves that those taxi companies are behind the curve, not that Uber has some special sauce. There are no barriers to entry in Uber's market, and like I said it only takes someone who already has an app on people's phones to decide to break into the business and they could push Uber out pretty easily given Uber's psychotic CEO and the way they think they can push local governments around to get their way. Not that I'm a big fan of Facebook, but I'd choose a ride share from Facebook if it was part of their app before I'd choose Uber. Heck, I'd walk before I'd choose Uber.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    "Texas-sized" tantrum?

    Where I come from, Texas is a small border town, so that tantrum can't be very big.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: "Texas-sized" tantrum?

      Not far from where I live: Texas (Velbert), population 30.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Texas-sized" tantrum?

        Can't read a word of that page but I think I can get the gist of it. This one isn't much bigger.

  4. redpawn

    Like the NRA

    They don't want to allow regulation at all. Their model works best without any government input no matter how reasonable. Fight all rules to the bitter end regardless of any consequences to the public.

  5. captain_solo

    I would at least respect them if they lobbied for the rules to be changed since the pile of regs on commercial driving are onerous, which is why taxi and limo drivers work for companies who can share the costs of insuring and maintaining a fleet. Uber (in a similar way that Netflix has done) has found a niche in a market where other people bear the burden of their business obligations which is what creates the large price gap between their services and those of the more traditional companies.

    Eventually though, either they run into the same regs that their competition struggles with and the government realizes the loophole, or they run into market forces that force them into a more traditional operating model (this is happening to Netflix now in some ways - whatever your viewpoing on whether Netflix should have been sharing in the bandwidth costs of the common carriers - something now largely mitigated by peering and co-locating gear in their data centers - when they were driving 60% of the traffic, they were never realistically going to be able to keep doing that for free long term)

    Don't get me wrong, I find the rules, regulations, and behavior of the larger traditional competitors in both the ride services and entertainment delivery (cable, ATT, etc) markets to be ridiculous and ripe for disruption, but those challenges are realities of the marketplace and any start-up would be wise to be very defensive and wise from day 1 about many of the regulatory and market risks they face. Ignoring them, and then whining when they begin to apply just doesn't cut it for me. We need to bring the law up to the behavior and realities of the marketplace, instead of just creating a new oligarchy of tech companies that are beholden to no one and are specially privileged by the governments regulatory model in a way that will eliminate their own up and coming competition. Don't want to get fooled again.

  6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Oh dear, so sad, goofbye

    "Unfortunately, the rules passed by city council don't allow true ridesharing to operate,"

    *true* ridesharing works everywhere in the sharing economy. Where it fails is when it stops being "sharing" and becomes a $$multi-billion commercial operation with large numbers of part- and full-time drivers treating it as an income stream and charging a taxi fee instead of "sharing" a vehicle and the trip costs.

  7. ratfox

    Did Uber just openly declare how a town can get rid of them?

    New fingerprinting regulations coming up in 3, 2, 1...

  8. GrumpyKiwi

    In a most shocking move, the city council that was making large amounts of money from selling taxi medallions moved to protect it's source of income. The array of parasitic bureaucrats that have jobs thanks to their "regulation" of the taxi-industry dragged out that one time where an Uber Driver was drunk (while carefully hiding any and all examples of their regulated by drunk and incompetent taxi drivers).

    Result: Victory. Well victory for the taxi drivers anyway. Competition seen off. Bureaucrats still have jobs. And best of all the public get to pay higher costs for taxi rides and the taxi companies can keep ignoring the parts of town where the racially undesirable live.

    Good show all round.

    1. Starace

      .'This cut and paste reply that has nothing to do with the article was brought to you by Uber'

    2. Melo
      Thumb Down

      Competition seen off? Urmm...what?

      "Result: Victory. Well victory for the taxi drivers anyway. Competition seen off. "

      Very inaccurate. We still have GetMe in Austin.

      And we can also walk up to a Smartcar, swipe a credit card, and simply drive that.

      There's even a free shuttle service, should you be too drunk to drive after a night partying on 6th.

      For students:

      For non Students:

      We have competition and options here.

      Also, traffic is bad in Austin, and getting worse due to growth; the fewer cars on the road idling about waiting for a customer to flag them down, the better. You also don't see a whole lot of cabs on the road here either; a good amount of people prefer to take the bus/rail, or simply take a bike to where they need to go. This is a college town after all, with most things being within short travelling distance. You only really need a car if you're headed out to the suburbs or beyond.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boo F^&%ing Hoo

    Profit before accountability = FAIL

  10. Medixstiff

    Sounds a bit daft on both companies parts.

    So what they are saying to potential customers is we don't care for your safety, otherwise we would gladly recommend our drivers have their prints taken, to help investigate any future crimes committed against customers using our service.

  11. DropBear

    It is chillingly scary that a mere decade was apparently enough to make "potentially guilty unless proven innocent" not only acceptable but actually vocally and near-unanimously endorsed in the UK. Well either that or we're swimming in hypocrites around here - but that's hardly conceivable now is it...

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      It does sound disproportionate.

      If I hire a cab, I want to be certain the vehicle is well maintained, the driver competent, and the journey insured. How does fingerprinting the driver help? Are Uber drivers stealing cars, spending the night hiring it out as a taxi, and then retuning the vehicle before the registered owner wakes?

  12. AndrewDu

    Let me guess - the black cab cartel (or whatever the American equivalent is) was behind the lobbying for this rule?

    Producer capture again.

    We'll defeat them in the end, I hope.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Did you read the article? Uber lobbied FOR the "rule" to the tune of $5m. The "rule" was to exempt their drivers from being fingerprinted at a cost to them or their drivers because they are "special" and "disruptive". The existing "rule" they wanted to be exempted from is the one that states all public service drivers must be fingerprinted.

      Now, to be fair, I think it's a bit much that bus/train/taxi drivers have to have their fingerprints on file, but that's the rules in Austin and Uber wanted to be exempted from that rule. Note especially that word "exempted". They weren't fighting to have the rule abolished for all. Just for them. Level playing field anyone?

  13. TVU Silver badge

    I have noticed a trend in the comments. Even mildly critical comments are getting two down votes so that's presumably from one from the employee at Uber HQ and one from the employee at Lyft HQ *blows raspberry at them* (cue two down votes...)

    Seriously though, I don't have a problem with their business model but I do have an issue with them not making the safety of their passengers an absolute priority. They ought to take notice of what happened in Austin because it wasn't city officials who supported this fingerprint regulation but ordinary Austin citizens in an open public vote and they did that in the face of a $5 million campaign to get them to vote otherwise.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      down votes

      "(cue two down votes...)"

      As of right now, you only have one. The Lyft marketing dude must be on a smoke break.

  14. Valerion

    Change in opinion?

    Not too many months ago on here, it was like:

    Taxi Firms? Boo!

    Uber? Yay!

    Seems to have reversed now.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Finger prints for ride sharing drivers and no background checks for purchasing a gun. Sounds about right.

    1. Vector

      Re: Texas

      We should have both, but background checks seem to be a Sisyphean task.

    2. P. Lee

      Re: Texas

      Ban the guns and ban the term "ridesharing" with respect to über. The appear to be a taxi company with a better mobile app than most.

      In my mind, if I'm sharing my car, I don't pay someone a fee to do so and then get paid.

      I'm all for sharing, but this isn't it.

  16. Bill Michaelson

    Why don't they just do it right?

    Uber should be playing the role of guide for drivers, arranging for adequate insurance at competitive rates (instead of the crap they try to pull now, leaving drivers exposed). They should be certifying and rating financing services and maintenance facilities. They should be arranging for local ordinance compliance by scoping out localities and easing the path for drivers with individualized guides. They should be offering a background checking service. In the political arena they should be working to harmonize laws across jurisdictions not by fighting regulation but by promoting regulation that is both easier to comply with and that protects their customers and drivers, which incidentally, probably gives them a certain degree of release from liability, aside from a long-term enhancement to their reputation. With a $50B valuation, one might think they could muster the resources to provide real value to the system. It seems they just want to run some servers in racks instead. Leeches.

  17. lockeptrv

    Uber driver who's never driven!

    I'm just down here visiting from Colorado where I am an Uber driver who has never had a customer. On that, I'll keep trying to find a fare in my way rural part of the state.

    As for the Austin requirement? From what I've read so far, it's not an unreasonable requirement. Uber and Lyft may be entities, but they're NOT governments. So how do the drivers feel about being excluded from Austin. Can't see this action by Uber and Lyft as being "driver friendly".

  18. lockeptrv

    Driver Friendly?

    As an Uber driver, I would prefer Uber to support my driving rather than SHUT ME off. May I consider being fingerprinted a reasonable (even if unnecessary) requirement. Sure, taxi companies may be behind it, but that doesn't make it all bad. The way to win is to keep driving until there are enough supporters to change the law.

    1. O RLY

      Re: Driver Friendly?

      Uber hired basically the entire robotics and automation team from Carnegie Mellon University, among the world leaders in robotics, in order to build autonomous cars simply so they can get to the point of not paying you to drive passengers. As soon as they can do so, Uber will dump you. For now, you're a pawn in their struggles in Austin and when you were driving, your actions fund their process to replace you.

      I sympathize with your plight; losing earnings in a pissing match sucks, but I despise Uber as a corporation.

      1. Mark Cathcart

        Re: Driver Friendly?

        They also bought the Microsoft brings maps division here in Louisville.

    2. Mark Cathcart

      Re: Driver Friendly?

      How do you feel about having to wait for 3-5 weeks to get approved before you could start driving?

  19. Mark Cathcart

    From a local... I lived a mile from city hall for 10 years, the yellow cab app was spotty as best and feature free... It only really worked well for pre-booked rides to the airport which cost $7-$10 more than Uber

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