The NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission has proposed rules to reduce fatigue among drivers of for-hire vehicles, and as is often the case with the TLC, not everyone in the industry is happy about them. Among the aggrieved this time are e-hail companies like Uber, which has resisted data sharing with the regulatory agency.
Uber is pushing back, saying the city’s demand for data to enforce the fatigue measure threatens the personal information of its passengers. It’s hard to reconcile that reasoning with allegations in lawsuits like one filed by Abbey Thomas, who claimed that her Uber driver was unwilling to take her a few blocks, leading to an incident that caused her to jump from a moving vehicle.
Her suit charged that the NYPD contacted Uber repeatedly but were denied access to the driver’s full name, license plate and address. (Uber said it suspended the driver and that the company did help the NYPD, adding that Uber only gives police drivers’ information to police when it receives a subpoena related to a criminal investigation.)
Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s claim that Uber and its imitators are “promoting safety for passengers,” safety is a real issue for rideshare companies.
The resistance of Uber and Lyft to these kinds of safety regulations suggests they believe their proprietary business model and technology elevates them above not only their competitors in the taxi industry, but also above the regulatory needs of the municipalities in which they operate. The companies’ acolytes claim that the city “should consult with consumer privacy groups and data experts to help protect against any unintended consequences of collection of such data. An appropriate balance between regulatory goals and individual privacy needs to be struck.”
Meanwhile, every ride in a New York City taxi is properly monitored by the TLC from point A to point B.
It is done so by a tracking system known as T-PEP installed in all of the more than 13,000 yellow cabs. When this system was challenged in federal court by a taxi driver on the basis of Fourth Amendment privacy issues, the case was dismissed.
Just like taxis, Uber and Lyft cars are public conveyances, so they need to be regulated in the same manner—especially when the issue is public safety. However, the TLC’s current effort is an insufficient double standard because it allows the e-hails to decide what data to submit, in essence giving these folks their own take-home exam.
To protect riders, the regulatory agency needs to mandate T-PEP-like technology for all app-based services. In this way, riders like Abbey Thomas will be able to swiftly identify their assailants, and the rest of us won’t be endangered by fatigued drivers struggling to make a living.
Brad Gerstman is a spokesman for New Yorkers for Equal Transportation Access, a group formed to demand that Uber face the same mandates as other car-service providers. He testified at the TLC’s Jan. 5 hearing.
Read more at Crain’s New York Business…