Smaller ride-hailing services are filling the void left by Uber and Lyft in Austin. The leading ride-hailing companies ceased their operations in the city this past May in protest of municipal legislation requiring biometric, fingerprint-based background checks for drivers.
Now, with the giants gone, numerous smaller companies have been offering similar services, and are operating in compliance with the new regulations. A new report from the City Manager indicates that all of the transportation network companies, or TNCs, in the city have met the initial August 1st benchmark of having 50 percent of their service delivered by drivers who have undergone the biometric background checks, and a couple of them – Wingz and Z-Trip – have already reached 100 percent compliance.
Many proponents of biometric background checks have argued that they can better help to keep passengers safe, but as CNBC reports, initial data from the Austin Police Department indicates that the new regulations haven’t had any substantial effect on crime rates with respect to sexual assault. On the other hand, Uber’s argument that the wide availability of its services helps to prevent drunk driving also hasn’t been borne out in the data.
Nevertheless, the biometric background check requirement would appear to be a matter of public interest, given that a referendum on the legislation instigated by a petition from Uber and Lyft ultimately saw voters support the requirement. The city has since worked to help transition former Uber and Lyft drivers to other TNCs in compliance with the legislation.
Austin’s TNCs are required to ensure that all drivers have had biometric background checks by next February.
Sources: CNBC, CBS Austin
August 22, 2016 – by Alex Perala