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Thursday, September 19, 2013

California Passes New Rideshare Regulations (Update)

Posted By on Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 4:15 PM


Just as Uber flexes its political muscle on Capitol Hill, hiring a well-connected team of consultants and lobbyists to shepherd it through regulatory roadblocks, California regulators are trying to clamp down on the San Francisco company and its various imitators.

As of today, California will be the first state to implement official rules for rideshare enterprises -- rechristened Transportation Network Companies, since most of them don't actually involve sharing. The California Public Utilities Commission introduced these rules back in July, but it allowed for two months of public comment before approving them.

And despite spirited challenges from cab companies, disability rights activists, and members of the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency, it appears most of the July proposals will carry over to law unchanged. If anything, the new rules will make Lyft and SideCar look more like their competitor Uber, by requiring all drivers to obtain a license to operate in the state of California.

Other stipulations include criminal background checks, a zero-tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol, compulsory driver training program, and 19-point car inspections that seem to be more rigorous than the ones currently give by start-up employees.

In press materials the CPUC also tried to elucidate its requirements for commercial rideshare carriers, which became a hot-button issue during the debate. Under the current rules, rideshare startups get to keep their million-dollar per-incident excess liability policies, which are set to kick in whether or not a driver's personal insurance allows for commercial use of vehicle.

Although SFMTA director Ed Reiskin argues in CPUC filings that such policies don't exist, representatives of the Insurance Information Network say that insurance companies aren't averse to creating new forms of coverage to meet consumer demand. Given that thousands of San Franciscans already use transportation networks every day, such demand isn't hypothetical.

Update, 5:17 p.m.: A spokesman from the CPUC wrote in to say that these new rules strengthened the insurance provisions for rideshare start-ups, and that they addressed disability access issues "more directly" than the preliminary version.

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.


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