The Silicon Valley giants Uber and Lyft might be able to return to Austin having improved nothing for the security of the citizens if Senate Bill 113, authored by State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, passes. The bill intends to deregulate ride-hailing services — which means taking away power from the city government, overturning the existing city regulations and throwing out some of the most common-sensical safety regulations that many Texans wanted.
Huffines said that “competition lowers the price and increases the quality and that’s what we need, a lot of competition in the ride-sharing business.” This is true only in an imaginary world, where all the companies play fair. According to CNBC “(t)he two private companies are spending millions to lobby politicians, reach voters with ads and lure riders with promotions.”
Uber and Lyft have big investors such as Toyota and General Motors expanding the two giants — making it difficult for smaller companies to come up, especially those who are ethical in their business venture and have the public’s interest in mind over making big money.
Huffines is interested in creating a free market and fair competition where consumers are the regulatory body. While I am all for free market and deregulations of private companies — and that’s what America is all about — I see the security of citizens to be above “fair competition.” If the government needs to put regulations depending on the needs of its local people, it should. The security of citizens should be enough of a reason for Texas government to reject this bill and let the city handle this issue according to their needs. Besides, what’s the point of having a government if nothing needs to be regulated?
There is another big problem that the bill does not consider: Uber and Lyft are popular across the nation, but that is what makes them dangerous. They beat the small companies and do not listen to the people either. Yes, they are competing against each other, but not when they see a threat to their millions of dollars — then they fight together against the people — just like they did in Austin.
They spent $8.6 million trying to buy Austinites’ votes that would have let them operate without fingerprint checks. Their loss last year on May 7 shows that we voted for safety over cheaper rides. That is our choice. Some other city may have a different take on it. And we should be able to choose what we want before Uber and Lyft kick out the smaller ride-hailing companies with their influential power, and the Texas government should respect that.
Senate Bill 113 is just a free pass for Uber and Lyft to rule out people’s demand — in Austin, 56 percent of us wanted fingerprint security. We must also not forget that Uber and Lyft left about 10,000 drivers unemployed just because they did not want to comply with Austinites’ request to implement fingerprint checks while they did so in New York and Houston because they were too big of a market to give up.
No doubt, this bill might be beneficial for people who want cheaper services, don’t care about the rich becoming richer and favor degradingly lower cuts for the drivers. Above all, Uber and Lyft are not playing fair, and this bill, if passed, is exactly what they want.
Batra is a computer science and rhetoric and writing junior from New Delhi.