Ride Apps Stymie City Council

Oct 8, 2013

Lyft drivers strap a fuzzy pink mustache to their own vehicles and give rides to people who summon them through a smartphone app.
Credit Julie Rose

  The Charlotte City Council is wary of a spate of new tech companies in town that let people hail a lift from a driver who has not gone through the city's inspection and permit process for cabs and limos.

Companies including Uber and Lyft have drivers who use their private vehicles and appear to fall under a new state law that exempts "digital dispatching services" from city regulation.

Caught by surprise, Charlotte's mayor and city council now wonder what – if anything – they can do to ensure the safety of people using the services and also be fair to the cab and limo companies required to meet stringent city regulations.

"If there's something we can do about it, we should do it," said Mayor Patsy Kinsey at the city council's Monday meeting. "But if we have to go to Raleigh for something like this, I'm just not sure we'll get anywhere."

Councilman David Howard worries about safety, "especially considering it's not regulated; especially since it's hard to track who's doing what."

The council's public safety committee will spend the coming months looking into the issue. Some of the city's taxi companies say they'll spend that time looking for ways to adapt their own services to fall under the digital dispatch exemption outlined in the new state law.  

In anticipation of opposition, Uber hired a couple of North Carolina lobbyists to get that exemption quietly inserted into a large bill that overhauls a variety of state regulations.