Ride-sharing companies Lyft, SideCar and Uber have pioneered a new way to get around around the city, but also created controversy about the legality and safety of their activities.

In November, the California Public Utilities Commission fined the companies $20,000 each for public safety violations.

The new ridesharing services allow people who need a ride to use a smartphone app to request one from drivers, ordinary car-owning residents who have been prescreened by the company. Payment for rides is voluntary and suggested fees are based on what other riders have paid for similar trips.

Now the commissioners have begun an evaluation of the public safety of these services. The CPUC announced on Dec. 20 that it’s accepting public comment regarding such issues as the consumer protection and safety implications of the services, how these new business models differ from long-standing forms of ridesharing, and their potential impact on insurance and transportation access.

“Our evaluation is not intended to stifle innovation and new services for consumers, but rather to assess public safety risks, and to ensure that the safety of the public is not compromised by the operation of these new transportation business models,” CPUC President Michael Peevey said in a press release.

In the meantime, ride-seeking passengers continue to book rides on their smart phones.

Marta Franco

Marta came from Zaragoza, Spain to master her English but everyone she speaks to wants to practice Spanish. After just a few months in the Mission, she already feels at home. In her free time she can be...

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  1. Any drivers accepting revenue paying passengers had better declare such to their automobile insurance company;
    otherwise, your personal-use insurance will not cover accidents.

  2. So what’s the income tax situation here? The drivers are independent contractors? Who’s declaring what on their 1040’s, Schedule C’s, CA 540’s? And how much air pollution is being generated by these cars (town cars are gas guzzlers), especially when they are running around without passengers, fishing for fares (uber, alles?). These are less sustainable options than what is being portrayed.

  3. To answer your questions:

    1) the insurance is provided by the ride-sharing company. so it does cover passengers.

    2) lyft and sidecar drivers use various cars, from hybrids to sport utility vehicles. in all, they are no worse for the environment than typical taxis which are *usually* crown vics. furthermore, unlike taxis, lyft and sidecar drivers don’t troll the city looking for fairs. they are only allowed to pick up customers that order through the app. so, less driving around aimlessly.

    this is definitely a far better alternative than the taxi system we have in place today, where the drivers are not accountable for their poor service. good luck ordering from yellow cab on a saturday night at 10pm. if they even answer the phone, someone will probably swoop on your taxi before it even reaches your pick-up location.

    in regards to safety, its not any safer to take a ride from a licenses cab driver. there are stories of cab drivers that have assaulted their female passengers, etc… so, i don’t see why there should be any increased risk when you take a lyft/sidecar ride. actually, they provide background checks to all their drivers.

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