The San Francisco based transportation network company Lyft recently announced plans to bring its ridesharing platform to Austin, despite city regulations. Lyft has been widely hailed as the free market’s response to government sanctioned taxi companies.
Using their smartphone, a user can coordinate a ride through the downloadable Lyft app with one of the company’s drivers. Drivers do not charge fares, but instead ask for donations from their passengers, which according to reports can be anywhere from 20 to 30 percent cheaper than a normal taxi ride.
While many are celebrating Lyft’s advent in Austin, city officials have warned the company that car sharing programs like Lyft could be “outside the law.” Currently, the Austin City Council is trying to decide whether services like Lyft violate city codes.
KVUE News reports that the Council has concerns regarding the safety of companies like Lyft. The report adds the fact that Lyft drivers are strangers picking up strangers has given the Council serious trepidations about the two year old car sharing company.
Lyft officials told Breitbart Texas that the company takes its passengers’ safety very seriously. So seriously, that they offer one million dollars worth of excess liability insurance to their users. This insurance protects passengers from bodily injury and property damage from the time the ride starts, to when it ends. According to officials, Lyft also puts their drivers through comprehensive background checks that look at driving records and criminal history.
In Austin, Lyft drivers must have a chauffeur’s permit according to the existing city laws. Drivers who are caught transporting people without one will be charge with a Class C misdemeanor and could have their car impounded.
Despite the legal ambiguity, Lyft has decided to start operations in the city anyway and hope for the best. Lyft officials told Breitbart Texas reporters that they are willing to work with the city. They claimed that as it stands, city code does not account for their innovative and unique business model.
“By passing the resolution to create a new regulatory structure for TNC’s (transportation network companies), the City has demonstrated that the current structure does not account for emerging and unique business models. We are committed to staying at the table and continuing to work with the City, as we have in jurisdictions across the country.”
The bleeding edge carsharing company kicked off its launch in Austin with a celebration at a local bar.
Follow Patrick Kane on Twitter @PatVKane.