Your next Lyft, Uber car may be regulated by the state

A Lyft driver in San Francisco.

Ride-sharing apps like Lyft, Uber and Sidecar let people hail a ride with their smartphones. And, for a lot of people, they work great -- as long as they don’t mind that their ride might come decked with an ironic moustache on the grill and that the guy driving it is some dude in his own car.

“I like the big, pink moustaches,” says Lisa Schweitzer with the USC Price School of Public Policy, “but I can honestly say no one asks me anything when it comes to matters of taste.”

But when it comes to matters of sustainable transportation, she’s a good person to call. And she thinks these car services make a lot of sense: “You make your request by your iPhone, and all of those transactions about who’s going to take the cab, where are you headed, that’s arranged by virtue of geolocating.” Plus, the payment piece is taken care of online. Not in the cab, awkwardly fumbling for a wallet or trying to calculate a tip.

Until today, the future of these pop-up cabs and cab drivers in California was murky; no one knew for sure if they’d be allowed to keep driving. Today’s vote by the California Public Utilities Commission answers that.

These amateur cabbies are here to stay.

“I think this is quite significant,” says Juan Matute with the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies.

The new California regulations mean the companies will have to get a license from the state, run background check on drivers, provide training, insurance-- lots of things they say they do already.

It’s a clear win for the up-and-comers. And a loss for old-school cabbies.

“It will be difficult for taxi cab drivers to continue doing exactly what they’ve been doing in the past,” says Matute. Without a monopoly, cabbies are going to have to step up. Improving the way people find them and the quality of the ride.  

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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