The advent of new technologies opens up new frontiers and creates new challenges. Ride-sharing is one of the newest changes introduced by the age of the smartphone, openly challenging conventional cab companies on their own territory. However convenient, services such as Uber and Lyft operate in a largely gray area, where legislation from a bygone century no longer applies. Efforts to regulate the growing ride-sharing market continue across the nation, with Florida being the latest state to enter the fray.
Issues in Insurance
In order to legally operate in Florida, Uber and Lyft would have to be properly regulated. Precisely how they should be regulated is a contested matter: At least three separate bills have been sponsored in the Senate, focusing on the same subject, but regulating it in drastically different ways, as TBO reports.
Insurance remains a major issue. While Uber already provides liability coverage for up to $1 million to the driver and the passenger, the coverage is limited to the duration of the ride and even then, only if the fare was booked through the app. Drivers who use the app to find fares or pick passengers up directly from the street do not benefit from this insurance and are only covered by the more modest policy that applies to “off-duty” drivers, with less extensive coverage and lower liability limits.
Two of the proposed bills would establish minimum insurance requirements for ride-sharing companies, requiring general liability insurance up to $1 million across the board, regardless of how the fare was booked.
Another issue is the way in which ride-sharing companies are regulated in the state. Both Uber and Lyft have fought tooth and nail to avoid being classified as cab companies, which would require them to conform to the same regulations and standards as conventional cabs. This is one of the key points of contention, as the Tallahassee Democrat reports: Cab companies feel threatened by the rise of a competitor who vies for the same market, but does not play by the same rules. For instance, all cabs have to undergo an inspection every six months by certified mechanic. No such requirement exists for Uber vehicles.
Ride-sharing companies typically challenge this argument by claiming that they are only offering a technology, rather than a particular service. Notably, both Uber and Lyft have released statements that they are looking forward to properly regulating ride-sharing in Florida. Of course, both companies have a stake in this: Access to the lucrative transportation market in Florida.
The future of ride-sharing in Florida will be influenced to a great degree by the regulatory framework it will have to conform to. Efforts to regulate and allow ride-sharing services are undertaken not just at the state level, but also by individual counties, in a communal effort to figure out just how to approach this new technology and regulate it in a safe, comprehensive way that won’t hinder its future growth and development.