The services, which involve customers using a smartphone app to connect to drivers willing to take them to destinations, have altered transportation services across the country and around the world. The advent of ride sharing has also caused clashes between the companies and a number of local governments.
The Austin city government enacted measures that required background checks and finger printing of ride share drivers, citing safety concerns. Uber and Lyft tried to get those regulations rescinded in a city proposition that failed last spring. The two companies immediately left Austin, claiming that the regulations are too strict and that they were designed to protect traditional taxi companies.
The Austin American-Statesman recently reported that, while Austin is scrambling to replace Uber and Lyft with new startups who are willing to adhere to the new regulations, the action has shifted over to the legislature. The assumption is that the legislature will look to enact statewide regulations for ride-sharing companies that would replace the patchwork of laws passed by various city governments. The ride-sharing companies hope that the statewide regulations will be less stringent than the ones that Austin passed. Uber is also involved in a struggle with Houston that has featured threats of leaving that city, as well.
Uber and Lyft have every reason to hope that the Texas Legislature will see things their way. The Texas legislature has been traditionally business-friendly. Also, the ride-sharing companies can point out that few cities in the United States require fingerprinting of drivers, Houston being the only one of any size. The angst that took place in Austin last May will likely be all for naught.
On the other hand, a statewide ride-sharing regulation bill will not likely take effect until September 2017. That means that Uber and Lyft will face some competition from the smaller startups that are being nurtured in Austin as they seek to reenter that market.