There are some reasonable discussions to have around ride-sharing companies. The key question is really that of liability: What liability insurance do ride-sharing companies have, and will that insurance leave their drivers in the lurch?
That said, taxi companies are often corrupt oligopolies that overcharge for their service while stiffing their employees and using loopholes to dodge paying for the inevitable accidents, so the appeal of ride-sharing is obvious. It doesn’t help that the taxi companies, upon seeing these services, often play dirty pool to try and shut them down, because a market doesn’t thrive on competition or anything.
And, yet, Los Angeles has apparently learned nothing from previous legal challenges to ride-sharing companies, which almost inevitably end with the city in question losing, and is trying to shut down any ride-sharing in the Los Angeles area. Essentially, because Uber, Sidecar, and Lyft don’t have the necessary licenses, they’ve been ordered to stop all operations.
If this sounds familiar, that’s because all of these companies have run into this problem and Uber, in particular, has been effective at beating taxi services at their own game. Washington D.C. tried to shut down Uber, for example, or at least force it to only offer service at five times the minimum cab rate, and quickly discovered local fans of the site were numerous and angry. In Massachusetts, where something similar was tried, one of those angry fans turned out to be the governor.
So, here’s what will happen in Los Angeles; one or all of these companies, probably Uber, will drag the city to court. Once in court, the judge will see that these companies are perfectly acceptable, and tell the taxi companies to shut up and deal. On the other hand, it’s nice to be able to root for a company in a legal fight, for once.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.