While taking a cab has long been a tried-and-true method for people who wish to have a night on the town without running the risk of being arrested for DUI, in recent years they have begun facing stiff competition from “ridesharing” companies such as Uber and Lyft. Rather than owning and operating own fleet, these companies match up licensed, insured drivers with people needing a ride.
Lyft and Uber have their perks. Both use a smartphone app. Open the Lyft app, for example, and you see a map with your location and a notification of how long it will take the nearest driver to reach your location. With the touch of a button, you can request a car, and you will immediately receive a text detailing who your driver is and what kind of car he or she is driving. Unlike Atlanta taxis, which in many cases only accept cash, all payments for Uber and Lyft are processed electronically. The driver is navigated to your location for pickup through your phone's GPS, and once you are on your way, all navigation is done via GPS.
For Lyft and Uber, pricing depends on demand, and the price can be extremely high in times of high demand – on New Year's Eve, for example. This is where taxis have the edge, as they charge a flat rate per mile.
Taxi companies complain, however that whatever edge they might have when it comes to cost, they cannot compete with Uber and Lyft, because Uber and Lyft are poaching their customers. They believe this to be unfair competition, as Lyft and Uber drivers are not regulated in the way that taxi drivers are. Taxi drivers must pay a registration fee, satisfy training requirements, be fingerprinted, and pass regular vehicle inspections. They must also be partnered with a company that owns a “medallion,” which is essentially a license to operate a taxi.
Last week, 13 taxi drivers filed a class action lawsuit against Uber and over 20 individual Uber drivers, alleging that the value of their “medallions” is diminished by the competition provided by Uber.
So how does all of this tie in with DUI in Georgia? There is evidence to indicate that the rise in services like Lyft and Uber has correlated to a decline in DUI rates in a few particular cities. The Washington Post recently looked at this data for San Francisco. However, this data must be taken with a grain of salt, as the studies have thus far been fairly limited (and, of course, correlation does not necessarily equal causation).
Nonetheless, I will be keeping an eye on the data, and advising my clients to use any method of safe transportation, whether with Uber, Lyft, or a taxi cab, rather than risk a DUI arrest.
Finally, as for the complaints of taxi services and other who want to use regulation to prevent competition, those days are over. We live in a world where innovation will continue to accelerate. If you want to competem innovate or die. As Atlanta DUI Lawyers, nothing more is asked of all of us. If someone had told me I needed to post a blog and provide information online to people in 2011, I would have laughed because I did not even have a website. So, to those who refuse to change with the times, cry me a river.