How Can the Government Learn from Current Experiences Regulating Uber and Lyft?

Unlike all of the driverless car bloggers and journalists, I am not going to write about the Uber/Google competition. I feel the media outlets have more than covered that story this week. I would like to focus more on the government’s role in this technology. While the government seems to actively want to drive (pun intended) the development of connected vehicles forward, they continue to take a back seat (pun intended) in driverless cars development (there are many local government exceptions). The question is – what will the government’s role be once the technology is deployed?

Let’s hope that the government will be more proactive than they have been with Lyft and Uber. As shown in this article, California lawmakers are trying to figure out what regulations are appropriate for Transportation Network Companies (aka “TNCs”). Regulations considered are required background checks, drug tests, DUI notifications, and different rules for airport transport. This newsfeed shows how the potential regulations are being debated throughout the United States.

The government is in a tough position in regulating TNCs for a few reasons:

  1. They’re going up against powerful organizations with significant venture capital behind them. As an example, Uber recently hired David Plouffe, former Campaign Manager for Obama, to lead Uber’s lobbying effort.
  2. They’re trying to regulate an industry that is wildly popular. Thousands of people use these services daily and they have even asked their customers to lobby lawmakers for them!
  3. Governments already have heavy regulations in place for the taxi industry. While TNCs are (mostly) different, they’re similar enough that the taxi industry is angry (there are examples all over the country)!

What can the government do proactively to avoid being in the same situation as they are with the TNCs? My initial thinking is: start earlier (before widespread popularity), partner with the industry in advance of the roll-out, and test out (or pilot) regulations early on. Other ideas?

About Lauren Isaac

I am the Manager of Transportation Sustainability at Parsons Brinckerhoff. Recently, I won the William Barclay Parsons fellowship for my research proposal to study how the United States government should respond to driverless cars. As I'm working on my research, I thought this blog would help to disseminate my findings and provide a forum for feedback.
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