Tag Archives: Uber

California Might Force Uber and Lyft To Drive Electric Cars

(DCNF) A bill in the California legislature calls for ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft to operate solely on zero-emissions vehicles.

Not to be outdone with a solar panel mandate for every household and other environmental decrees in recent years, legislators in California are now turning their focus to popular ride-sharing apps. Legislation introduced in the state Senate aims to quickly shift companies like Uber and Lyft onto a 100 percent electric vehicle mandate. If passed, the bill would require 20 percent of the miles traveled by ride-hailing services be done in zero-emission vehicles, or ZEVs. This mandate rises to 50 percent by 2026 and ultimately 100 percent by 2030.

“It makes the most sense to focus on those cars that are going to be on the road the most,” state Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Democrat and the bill’s sponsor, said in a Forbes article published Wednesday. “It doesn’t necessarily make sense to have all of our electric vehicles be somebody’s second or third vehicle that’s mostly just parked in their garage.”

The bill, which has been dubbed E-CAr, has already cleared two committees and is currently in Senate Appropriations Committee for review. E-CAr would still need to be approved before a vote in both chambers. (RELATED: California Will Force EVERY New Home Owner To Install Solar Panels)

If passed, the sweeping mandate would have a major impact on Uber and Lyft, both companies are headquartered in California and have over 200,000 drivers operating in the state. Uber is currently “neutral” on the bill, whereas Lyft has voiced more hesitation on the implications such a mandate could bring, according to Forbes.

“Our concern with this bill is the impact it would have on Lyft drivers, the vast majority of whom drive part-time as a way to supplement income and support their families,” stated Lyft spokesman Adrian Durbin. “We are engaging with the sponsor of this legislation to find ways to prioritize infrastructure development and incentivize EVs.”

On average, electric vehicles cost around $10,000 more than equivalent gasoline-powered cars.

Written by Jason Hopkins. Follow Jason on Twitter @thejasonhopkins

This article was republished with permission from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Bernie Sanders Bashes Uber, Uses It For All His ‘Taxi’ Rides

By Blake Neff Just a couple months ago, Bernie Sanders lambasted Uber as an “unregulated” company with “serious problems,” but financial disclosures by the Democratic presidential candidate reveal that whenever his campaign requires a taxi, they literally always turn to Uber.

According to research done by National Journal, 100 percent of Sanders’ spending on taxi and ride-sharing services was spent on Uber. Among 2016 presidential contenders, that’s a distinction Sanders shares with only Bobby Jindal, Martin O’Malley, and the defunct Scott Walker and Rick Perry campaigns. (RELATED: Bernie Sanders Does NOT Like Uber)

It also puts him way ahead of Hillary Clinton, who only had 41 percent of her taxi costs go to Uber. Only Clinton and Mike Huckabee spent more than half of their taxi spending on traditional taxis rather than modern ride-sharing apps.

Lindsey Graham was the least Uber-happy candidate, with only 25 percent of his taxi expenses going to the company. Graham was also the only candidate to use Uber’s rival Lyft, with the company absorbing some 31 percent of his taxi spending.

Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist and advocate for labor, so his skepticism of Uber is unsurprising. The company has been attacked on the left for evading taxi regulations in cities like New York, and the company is also criticized because its workers are classified as independent contractors rather than employees, meaning they don’t receive certain government benefits and protections. An ongoing class-action lawsuit by Uber drivers seeks to have them reclassified as employees.

But Uber’s innovations have also allowed it to offer cheaper service than most of its competitors, and that combined with its convenience apparently made it too compelling to the Sanders campaign to choose any other service.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to the Sanders campaign for comment but did not immediately receive a reply.

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Hillary Clinton Criticizes Uber, Airbnb Peer-to-Peer Economy in Economics Speech

On Monday, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an economic policy speech at The New School in Manhattan which Politico characterized as “an attempt to address the threat posed by Bernie Sanders’ populist crusade without being pinned to a set of liberal proposals that will hurt her in a general election.

During the speech, which her campaign promoted as a major policy address, Clinton parroted recent criticisms that have been raised by left-leaning politicos against innovative sharing economy startups like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb for brokering the assets and skills of independent contractors rather than hiring employees directly.

I’ll crack down on bosses who exploit employees by misclassifying them as contractors or even steal their wages,” said Clinton.

She did not mention any specific companies by name, but said, “Many Americans are making extra money renting out a spare room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car. This ‘on demand’ or so-called ‘gig economy’ is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation, but it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

These are well-paying jobs, well above minimum wage when people drive, offer lots of flexibility in schedule, etc,” said Menlo Ventures partner and Uber investor Shawn Carolan in an email to Reuters on Clinton’s speech.

The New York Times notes that Uber currently faces a class-action lawsuit in California over its classification of its drivers as independent contractors and that labor activists have argued that the sharing economy’s innovative peer-to-peer business model is “simply a way for companies like Uber to minimize costs, even as they maintain considerable control over drivers’ workplace behavior.

In an op-ed blasting Clinton’s speech as belonging in “1930s America,National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke wrote, “In the eyes of us free-marketeers, the teams behind the host of new peer-to-peer services are no less than digital liberators. For us, the arrival of a system such as Uber is salutary, not scary… it is the source of golden opportunities for those who wish to construct odd or custom-built work schedules or to make money without answering to a boss. That a few ingenious programmers have found a way around the artificial scarcity, state-union collusion, and high barriers to entry that The Man has seen fit to impose is, in our view, an extremely positive development.

According to Politico, Clinton’s speech was interrupted by a protester who, prior to being escorted out by security, shouted, “Senator Clinton, will you restore Glass-Steagall?

In 1999, Former President Bill Clinton signed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, which repealed two provisions of Glass-Steagall legislation that had previously created barriers between investment banks, commercial banks, and insurance companies.

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Uber Bans Guns, New York Driver Robbed at Gunpoint

Within weeks of announcing that the company would not allow drivers to carry guns, an Uber driver in New York has been robbed at gunpoint.

The Anti Media recently reported that Uber announced that they will be firing any drivers who are caught violating the new policy—which apparently went into effect nearly two weeks ago—because they contend that an unarmed driver makes their customers feel more safe.

Now the New York Daily News reports that a 22-year old Uber driver was robbed with a gun by a potential passenger. The driver stopped “on 67th Ave. and Burns St. in Rego Park just after midnight” to meet his client. When the man got in the car he pointed a rifle at the driver, demanding all his money. The driver gave the man $60 and ran.  Uber says they are investigating.

The story is vastly different from a recent scene in Chicago where an Uber driver defended a crowd of people from a shooter. In April TruthInMedia reported:

“An Uber driver in Chicago with a concealed carry license defended himself and a group of pedestrians against a man who opened fire on a crowded street Friday night, a state attorney said in court on Sunday.

Assistant State Attorney Barry Quinn said that 22-year-old Everardo Custodio began shooting at a group of pedestrians shortly before midnight Friday, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The driver, who has a state-issued firearm owner’s identification card, pulled out a shotgun and fired six times, hitting Custodio in the shin, knee and lower back, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.”

The bad publicity for Uber comes as the company has faced a wave of backlash in recent weeks for the possible monitoring of its drivers.

When Uber announced an upcoming policy change taking place on July 15, the company noted that in addition to collecting information on drivers when they use the service, they “may also collect the precise location of your device when the app is running in the foreground or background.” The announcement sparked fears that the company would monitor sensitive data about drivers even when they were not operating the phone app.

In response to the announcement, the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the policy change.

“Uber will claim the right to collect personal information and detailed location data of American consumers, even when they are not using the service,” EPIC said in its complaint.

A spokeswoman for Uber said there was “no basis for this complaint” and that the company hasn’t made a final decision about whether to track user phones when the apps are inactive.

The company is not only working to track drivers in the U.S., indeed Uber has already been tracking the activities of drivers in China.

Earlier this month, the Chinese city of Hangzhou was the center of protests by local taxi drivers against Uber. The taxi drivers say Uber is unfair competition. According to The Wall Street Journal, Uber sent to messages to its drivers in Hangzhou warning them not to go to the protest and for any drivers in the area to leave immediately. Uber said it would use GPS to find out which drivers refused to leave and cancel contracts accordingly. Uber claimed this was done to “maintain social order.”

This is not the first time the company has come under fire for discussing tracking individuals. In November 2014, Uber’s Senior Vice President of Business Emil Michael discussed spending “a million dollars” to hire researchers to investigate journalists who write unfavorably about the company. BuzzFeed reported:

“That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they’d look into “your personal lives, your families,” and give the media a taste of its own medicine.

Michael was particularly focused on one journalist, Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily, a sometimes combative voice inside the industry. Lacy recently accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny.”

What does all this mean for Uber? What does it mean for ride sharing? Leave your thoughts below.

Uber Halts Operation In Kansas, Citing Newly-Passed “Unbalanced, Backward Regulations”

Uber operations were quickly ceased in Kansas on Tuesday following the passage of legislation that placed new regulations on the company as well as other ride-sharing services in the state.

SB 117 contains several new rules that must be followed by ride-sharing services, including requirements for disclosure of fare calculations and fare estimates, and the disclosure of license plate numbers and photos of drivers.

The bill also mandates an increased level of car insurance maintained by drivers. While a driver is “on the clock” but not providing a ride, SB 117 requires “Primary automobile insurance of at least $50,000 for death and bodily injury per person and $100,000 per incident, and $25,000 for property damage; and Primary automobile liability insurance that meets the minimum coverage requirements where required by statutes relating to uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage and motor vehicle liability insurance coverage.”

While a driver is “engaged in a prearranged ride,” SB 117 requires “Primary automobile insurance that provides at least $1,000,000 for death, bodily injury, and property damage; and Primary automobile liability insurance that meets the minimum coverage requirements where required by statutes relating to uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage and motor vehicle liability insurance coverage.”

The bill also requires drivers to submit to background checks from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

According to the Kansas City Star, Uber claims that it performs its own background checks on its drivers and that the insurance requirements are “unnecessary.”

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed the bill, describing the legislation as “premature.”

“To overregulate or improperly regulate an emerging industry before the marketplace actors make proper arrangements is to invite more problems, not less,” Brownback wrote in his veto.

The Kansas Senate voted 34-5 to override the veto, followed by a 96-25 vote from the House to override the veto.

In a blog post, Uber condemned the passage of the bill, claiming that “Kansas lawmakers chose not to listen to their constituents, and special interests succeeded in securing an override of the Governor’s veto of SB 117 – a bill that makes it impossible for Uber to operate in the state.”

The post accused Kansas legislators of singling out Kansas “as the first and only state in the nation that forced Uber out with unbalanced, backward regulations.”

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle, who called Uber’s reaction “pure political theater,” told the Kansas City Star in an email that “The Legislature has not taken any action preventing them from operating.”

“They have a consistent pattern of irrational behavior, and this is just the latest example,” Wagle said.

According to Wichita news station KAKE, law enforcement agencies worry that drunk driving in Kansas may increase due to Uber’s absence. “Any service that is assisting getting people that have maybe have had too much to drink home is a good thing, and the loss of that may at some point increase that type of DUI, or DUI-related crashes,” said Lt. David Hundley of the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Concealed Carrying Chicago Uber Driver Defends Group Of Pedestrians Against Wild Gunman

By Chuck Ross

An Uber driver in Chicago with a concealed carry license defended himself and a group of pedestrians against a man who opened fire on a crowded street Friday night, a state attorney said in court on Sunday.

Assistant State Attorney Barry Quinn said that 22-year-old Everardo Custodio began shooting at a group of pedestrians shortly before midnight Friday, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The group was passing in front of a vehicle occupied by an unnamed 47-year-old Uber driver.

The driver, who has a state-issued firearm owner’s identification card, pulled out a shotgun and fired six times, hitting Custodio in the shin, knee and lower back, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Police responded quickly and found Custodio lying in the middle of the street. The Uber driver stayed on the scene and provided a statement to police.

The driver does not face charges as, according to Quinn, he “was acting in self-defense and in the defense of others.”

Custodio’s gun was recovered at the scene. He is still in the hospital and faces charges of aggravated assault and unlawful weapons charges.

A spokeswoman for Uber told the Sun-Times that the driver had just dropped off a passenger when Custodio began shooting. The company plans to interview the driver and his passenger. His Uber profile is still active.

Had Friday’s incident occurred just a little more than a year ago, the Uber driver would likely face weapons charges of his own. Illinois was the last state in the U.S. to legalize the concealed carry of firearms. A law allowing concealed carry was passed in July 2013, but the state did not begin issuing licenses until February 2014.

Many gun control activists feared that legalizing the concealed carry of guns would lead to increased crime. Those fears have failed to come to fruition, both across the U.S. and Illinois. Gun rights advocates argue that expanded concealed carry is associated with lower crime rates and that very few crimes are committed by concealed carriers.

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City Taxi Commissioner: Abolish Taxi Commission, Regulations to Level Playing Field for Uber, Taxis

In cities across the United States, rideshare services have exploded to prominence, offering cheap rides to those in need of transportation and decent paying jobs to individuals struggling to find work. However, the business models behind providers like Uber and Lyft frequently come into conflict with antiquated livery regulations, resulting in political fights between taxi drivers and rideshare companies, with taxi drivers complaining that rideshare services are sidestepping the fees and regulatory costs that they have to pay. The political infighting has resulted in extreme outcomes in some cases, such as cities threatening to arrest or fine rideshare drivers if providers do not reshape their business models to fit regulations designed before mobile app based businesses could have even been imagined.

According to Seacoast Online, the Portsmouth, NH Taxi Commission decided at a Wednesday meeting to approach this problem in a new way by ditching its existing livery regulatory scheme entirely and replacing it with a new one aimed at evening the playing field between taxi drivers and rideshare providers. In fact, not only did the Taxi Commission vote to send a memo recommending that the City Council abandon its taxi medallion system, inspections, and fare regulations, but the commissioner offering the proposal, Larry Cataldo, recommended that the Taxi Commission itself be disbanded entirely six months after the changes go into effect.

Instead, the commission suggested that the City Council adopt a new, simpler regulatory system to accommodate the disparate business models of taxi and rideshare companies. The new rules would require all drivers to register with the city and provide proof that they are carrying at least $300,000 worth of commercial insurance coverage. Registered drivers would also have to sign a code of conduct agreement and face criminal background checks, for which they would be charged a fee. Uber drivers would be offered a grace period, during which time they could continue working, to give them an opportunity to acclimate to the new regulations. The above-embedded video contains footage, provided by the City of Portsmouth, of a prior January 14 meeting of the Taxi Commission at which commissioners listened to debates between taxi and Uber drivers before coming up with Wednesday’s proposal.

Some local taxi drivers are angry about the proposed changes and are calling for Uber to be banned. Portsmouth taxi operator Merle White said in protest at Wednesday’s Taxi Commission meeting, “Maybe it’ll take a lawsuit to make you do your job and maybe I’ll be the moron to do it.” Other taxi drivers at the meeting also protested — John Palreiro offered to sign on to Merle White’s lawsuit, and Scott Gerrato called for Taxi Commissioner Larry Cataldo to resign. Seacoast Online reported today that taxi driver John Palreiro has made good on his promise by retaining attorney Joe Plaia and plans to file suit against the city if it does not serve a cease-and-desist order to Uber drivers.

Taxi Commissioner Larry Cataldo said that Uber is needed in town because it encourages its drivers to make themselves available during peak hours when taxis can not handle the existing demand for rides. Cataldo also pointed out the fact that rideshare services support the public’s interest by helping inebriated bar patrons arrive home safely. Commissioners at the meeting said that deregulating taxi fares would give consumers more choices. Cataldo hopes that the new regulatory system will be up and running by summertime.

The proposal was tabled until the City Council’s next meeting, at which the regulatory changes are expected to face a vote. If the proposal were to pass, City Attorney Robert Sullivan would be tasked with rewriting the city’s taxi rules accordingly, which would be presented at a subsequent public hearing.

NYC Suspends Uber Bases for Refusing to Provide Trip Records

Five out of the six New York City bases belonging to the ride-sharing service Uber were suspended on Tuesday, after a ruling stated that the service failed to comply with data requests from the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC).

CNET reported that the TLC is a “division in the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings,” whose ruling stated that Uber must suspend five out of its six bases in New York City “until the company provides the data and each base pays a $200 fine,” leaving the one base that provided data “in operation and handling all rider requests.

According to the New York Business Journal, “Lyft and other competitors did not object to the request.”

Business Insider reported that the requests were under a new rule from the TLC, which states that a Licensee “must truthfully answer all questions and comply with all communications, directives, and summonses from the Commission or its representative.

The commission requested that Uber hand over “the date of trip, time of trip, pick up location, and license numbers” from April to mid-September of 2014.

The New York Business Journal reported Uber “fought the request on constitutional grounds,” claiming that the commission was “demanding trade secrets, information that could harm its competitive position and possibly violate drivers’ privacy.”

This is not the first time Uber has been met with challenges over the last year. In addition to being criticized for being an alternative to tradition taxi services, Uber has received criticism from major businesses, and has had its drivers threatened to “stop driving or face arrest” in states such as AlabamaTennessee, and Virginia.

Despite the fact that the company is down to just one base in New York City, Uber’s spokeswoman Natalia Montalvo released a statement saying that Uber is still in operation, and continues to provide service to its customers:

Uber continues to operate legally in New York City, with tens of thousands of partner drivers and hundreds of thousands of riders relying on the Uber platform for economic opportunity and safe, reliable rides. We are continuing a dialogue with the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission on these issues.”

Off-Duty Boston Police Officer Allegedly Attacks Uber Driver Then Steals His Car

Officer Michael Doherty was placed on paid administrative leave after he was arrested on Sunday on charges of assault, battery, and using a motor vehicle without authority. According to DigBoston, the veteran cop, who has worked for the Boston Police Department for 16 years, ordered a ride home from the rideshare service Uber, then, upon arriving at what the officer believed was the wrong destination, attacked the driver, forcing him from the vehicle, and stole his car. Officer Doherty reportedly used racial slurs against both the Uber driver and a witness to the incident. The above-embedded video coverage by WCVB Channel 5 Boston notes that Doherty is set to be arraigned on Monday.

A Boston Police Department statement sourced by The Boston Globe indicates that an Uber driver called police at 2:45 AM on Sunday to report that he had been beaten by a passenger and that his car had been stolen. Allegedly, as the Uber driver pulled up to what he believed was the passenger’s final destination, the passenger became angry and claimed that the driver had taken him to the wrong location. The passenger, whom police later determined was Officer Doherty, told the driver, “What, you think I’m stupid, you [expletives deleted],” referring to him with a racial slur against Latinos. The off-duty Boston cop then began beating the Uber driver, causing him to flee his vehicle. The altercation escalated outside the car, as Doherty chased the victim and continued his assault.

The victim flagged down a nearby driver who stopped to help. Officer Doherty then reportedly jumped into the driver’s seat of the Uber driver’s car and fled the scene. The witness who stopped to help the victim then gave the victim a ride and followed Officer Doherty, who eventually exited the Uber driver’s vehicle and turned to confront his two pursuers. Noticing the witness, an African American, who had stopped to help his victim, Doherty reportedly said, “What do you want, you [expletives deleted],” referring to him with the n-word. Doherty then continued his attack on the Uber driver as the witness struggled to stop him. According to BostInno, Massachusetts Port Authority police officers arrived on the scene, and, upon seeing them, Officer Doherty stopped his attack and fled on foot.

Doherty was later picked up and arrested by Boston police. Uber issued a statement about the incident, which said, “Our thoughts are with our valued partner during his recovery… We stand ready to assist law enforcement with their investigation.” Uber says it has blocked Doherty from using its service in the future.

Uber Executive Suggests Spending $1 Million to “Give The Media a Taste of Its Own Medicine”

While at a dinner party on Friday, with several Journalists in attendance, the Senior Vice President of the ride-sharing service Uber, suggested the company spend $1 million hiring a team of researchers to “dig up dirt” on Journalists who criticized Uber, in an attempt to “give the media a taste of its own medicine.

As previously reported, Uber, a ride-sharing service that allows users to find a ride by using an App on their smartphone, has received criticism from major businesses, and has had its drivers threatened to “stop driving or face arrest” in states such as Alabama, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Buzzfeed was the first to report the comments from Uber’s Vice President, Emil Michael, after one of its editors was invited to the dinner by Journalist Michael Wolff, “who later said that he had failed to communicate that the gathering would be off the record.

During the dinner, Michael suggested that Uber should spend “a million dollars” hiring a team of top researchers and journalists to help Uber “fight back against the press” by looking into the personal lives and the families of journalists who criticized the company.

When asked about the ramifications from such an operation, Michael insisted, “Nobody would know it was us.”

According to Buzzfeed, the main critic Michael had in mind was Sarah Lacy, the editor of PandoDaily.

Lacy criticized Uber, and announced that she was deleting the company’s App, in an article she wrote in October. In the post, she responded to an ad campaign from Uber that promoted the pairing of riders in France with “Hot Chick” drivers.

I still can’t believe that an office of Uber – a company valued at $18 billion and held up as a bastion of modern entrepreneurship – posted an ad that encouraged, played on, and celebrated treating women who may choose to drive cars to make extra money like hookers,” Lacy wrote.

According to Buzzfeed, Michael “expressed outrage at Lacy’s column and said that women are far more likely to get assaulted by taxi drivers than Uber drivers,” and that because of her comments, Lacy “should be held personally responsible for any woman who followed her lead in deleting Uber and was then sexually assaulted.”

After Michael’s comments were made public, he made a statement saying that they were “borne out of frustration during an informal debate” over what he feels is “sensationalistic media coverage” of the company Uber.

Lacy responded to the comments with an article, arguing, “the First Amendment and rights of journalists do matter.

Companies shouldn’t be allowed to go to illegal lengths to defame and silence reporters,” wrote Lacy. “Professional women in this industry actually deserve respect.”

Lacy came back and updated her article, saying that shortly after she published it, Michael called her, and asked to speak to her “off the record.”

“I told Michael that I would not talk to him off the record,” wrote Lacy. “This is an issue of vital importance to our readers, Uber’s riders, journalists and women in the Valley, and I will not have a conversation I can’t share with them. He said goodbye and hung up.”

In addition to the phone call, Michael also reached out to Lacy with an email, and a Tweet:

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 5.37.37 PM


While Lacy has yet to respond to Michael on Twitter, she did make a statement by retweeting several of the Tweets that were sent to her by users, sharing their support:

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 5.40.09 PM



Tuscaloosa, AL to Uber Drivers: Stop Driving or Face Arrest

Innovative, mobile app-based rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have exploded in popularity across the US. They provide jobs for out-of-work or underemployed people with reliable cars and offer low-cost rides for those in need of transportation. Mothers Against Drunk Driving spokesperson J.T. Griffin offered support for rideshare companies, which, according to DUI arrest records, appear to reduce incidences of drunk driving, saying, “MADD supports new ridesharing platforms like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar as well as traditional taxi services that are enabling more options to provide safe rides in communities across the country.”

Considering the facts that rideshare companies create jobs, provide transportation options, and help keep drunk drivers off the road, one would think that politicians would be chomping at the bit to modernize vehicle-for-hire regulations in an effort to get Uber and Lyft moving in their towns. Instead, many officials in cities across the US have fought against rideshare companies and in some cases have even threatened to arrest drivers for trying to make ends meet through the platforms.

According to AL.com, the City of Tuscaloosa, AL, home to the University of Alabama, recently took its battle against Uber to the extreme and ordered Uber drivers to quit working or face arrest. On October 3, Uber representatives and city officials met in an attempt to resolve an ongoing regulatory dispute. Uber Tuscaloosa general manager Billy Guernier paraphrased what city employees said at the meeting in comments to AL.com, “The message was ‘Unless you guys are willing to cease operations and stop offering this valuable option to consumers, we will no longer work with you, we will no longer negotiate with you, and beginning on Wednesday, we will begin arresting drivers for working on the Uber platform.'”

City officials complain that Uber’s drivers are violating the town’s vehicle-for-hire regulations, which were written without Uber’s modernized business model in mind. Uber’s Billy Guernier has attempted to meet with Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox in an effort to negotiate regulatory tweaks that would satisfy both parties, but has not yet been granted a meeting. In fact, Guernier said that no elected officials from the city have met with Uber and that the city has only allowed the company to negotiate with bureaucrats who lack the power to make the kind of changes to the law that would be necessary when modernizing regulations to meet the needs of new technology.

Mayor Maddox told Tuscaloosa News, “I believe Uber needs to follow the standards that are set by a community and work in good faith with the people who are entrusted with making those decisions… But breaking the law is breaking the law. And whether you agree or disagree with it, the city has to enforce the rules on its books.”

Starting last Wednesday, drivers caught working for Uber will be arrested on misdemeanor charges for violating the town’s vehicle-for-hire ordinance. Tuscaloosa Police Department representative Sergeant Brent Blankley defended the city’s position to AL.com, “Since the day Uber announced they were coming to Tuscaloosa the city has been open and willing to work with them. The willingness to reach an agreement has seemed to be one-sided… The city has given Uber items that we would be willing to look into, but some of the things we will not change, such as [requiring] background checks, insurance and vehicle inspections, are for the safety of the passengers.”

In comments to Tuscaloosa News, Uber representative Taylor Bennett said, “The bottom line is Uber has set a new standard for safety and quality. Our industry-leading background checks, $1 million commercial liability insurance, and an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability built into the app make Uber the safest ride on the road.” He also told Alabama Watchdog, “Uber continues to be available in over 215 cities around the world, moving folks safely and reliably around town; at this time demand greatly exceeds supply in Tuscaloosa.”

Billy Guernier has urged Uber users in Tuscaloosa to contact their elected officials in an effort to end the crackdown on Uber drivers. He also indicated that the new policy, if it results in arrests, may force Uber to stop offering its services in Tuscaloosa, a busy university city which already suffers from limited transportation options. Said Guernier, “If the city is actually willing to arrest drivers, it would be clear to me that their interests are so backwards and their focus so far off of improving life in Tuscaloosa, I wouldn’t have any interest in working with them anymore. There are a lot of places that still need ride-sharing and still need UberX, and I’ll be happy to take it to them.”

Memphis Creates Task Force to Arrest, Fine Uber and Lyft Drivers

The popular rideshare companies Uber and Lyft have been forced to do battle for the right to do business against overzealous bureaucrats and antiquated livery regulations in cities, counties, and states across the US. A recent dust-up with Virginia regulators ended in victory, as the state backed off its cease and desist order against the innovative start-ups. Rideshare services have quickly become an excellent source of part-time employment for people struggling to find jobs and may be reducing drunk driving fatalities, both of which, it would seem, help politicians meet policy goals.

However, WREG-TV is reporting that Memphis city officials, responding to complaints by local taxi drivers, are focusing their energies on enforcing out-of-date livery regulations that were designed long before the innovative technology behind Uber and Lyft existed, rather than trimming regulations to fit with modern business models. The City of Memphis has issued a cease-and-desist order against the rideshare companies, which Uber and Lyft intend to defy. However, in order to add teeth to the city’s threats, a police task force has reportedly been created to fine and arrest the companies’ drivers.

At issue are permits, vehicle inspections, and the associated fees that the city collects, which are a significant burden for part-time rideshare drivers. Aubrey Howard, chief official at the Memphis Permits department, told WREG-TV, “We are not attempting to curtail commerce. What we want is if they are going to do business here they have to follow the rules.” Reportedly, drivers caught working for Uber and Lyft could be arrested, fined up to $400, and face suspension of their driver’s licenses. “We think sending out a task force will make these companies move a little faster,” said Aubrey Howard at Memphis Permits, who confessed that the industry is evolving and may need updated laws. Memphis’ license administrator characterized the rideshare companies as “bullies.”

Taxi companies in the city currently have to pay for permits, vehicle inspections, and background checks, regulations which do hurt taxi drivers in a time in which rideshare companies are growing in popularity. Uber and Lyft have internal safety policies, which include vehicle inspections and higher insurance standards than the City of Memphis requires.

WREG-TV spoke to a local Uber and Lyft driver named VJ about the issue, who said she would defy the cease-and-desist order, “The letter went to Uber and Lyft.  Not to us. So as far as I’m concerned Memphis hasn’t told me personally anything.” She also indicated that Uber is encouraging drivers to continue working despite the ban, “The only communication I’ve had is from Uber and they say we’ve got your back. They say they’ve been in this rodeo before… If [police] impound my car or ticket me I know I’m covered.”

Virginia DMV to Uber, Lyft: ‘Cease and Desist’

With gas prices on the rise and a jobs crisis choking the economy, the popular, new, and innovative rideshare companies Uber and Lyft have been battling back against these economic issues by rapidly expanding to new markets, offering jobs with flexible scheduling to out-of-work folks with reliable cars, and introducing more transportation options for individuals in need of a ride. Since consumers can easily match up with local drivers through these services using a convenient smartphone app, rideshare companies also increase the number of sober rides available to people out drinking at bars, helping to reduce drunk driving fatalities.

However, Uber and Lyft have completely new business models that rely on technology that didn’t exist when most livery regulations were developed. As a result, the companies have had to battle onerous and antiquated regulations on a state-by-state and city-by-city level. In most jurisdictions, the companies have prevailed, but recent battles with Virginia’s state government have escalated and taken a turn for the worse. The Virginian-Pilot is reporting that, on Thursday, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles sent cease-and-desist letters to Uber and Lyft, asserting that the companies’ business models are out-of-step with state regulations. According to regulators, all drivers offering rides to the public must attain authorization from the state, except for in the case of rideshares. However, state law disallows rideshares from turning a profit in exchange for their activities.

Last April, the Virginia DMV issued a $9,000 penalty to Lyft and a $26,000 penalty to Uber for profiting on rideshares in violation of state law. The companies chose to appeal the fines and continue operating in the state. However, this new cease-and-desist order comes with a heavy-handed new threat: the DMV will expand its fines from targeting the companies in question to additionally targeting their largely cash-strapped drivers, who have been relying on income from the service to cover bills and feed their families.

Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Lane said of Uber and Lyft, “I actually like their business model in terms of giving more flexibility to the public, but there are some issues they need to work on and some laws that we need to change,” pointing out the need for policy changes to get state laws in line with rapidly changing trends in technology. However, these companies are already doing business in the state. Many Virginians are currently gainfully employed through them. Also, Uber and Lyft customers in the state have expressed concerns that too few taxis are available to deal with the community’s transportation needs.

According to NBC Washington, Uber representative Natalia Montalvo said of the order, “This decision is not in the best interest of Uber partners, who have been using the technology to make a living, create new jobs and contribute to the economy – or residents who rely on Uber for access to affordable, reliable transportation alternatives. We look forward to continuing to work with the Virginia DMV to find a permanent home for ride-sharing in the Commonwealth.” Lyft representative Chelsea Wilson noted, “Many of the current regulations surrounding taxis and limos were created before anything like Lyft’s peer-to-peer model was ever imagined.”

According to The Washington Post, both Uber and Lyft will continue operating in the state in defiance of the order. Virginia’s state government is conducting a study on web-based rideshare services and plans to publish a report sometime next year. However, this does little good for the companies’ current drivers, who already rely on rideshare income for survival.

Watch the below video for NBC Washington‘s video coverage on the issue.