There has been a war going on in the Capitol City over transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft. At first, the battle was about whether or not ride-sharing was legal, but last October they received the okay.
But more recently, amidst concerns around sexual assaults, the battle transitioned to whether or not the Austin should require drivers to have background checks and be fingerprinted.
Neither of the big companies in the field – Lyft or Uber – require fingerprinting as part of their background checks. Last week, the Austin City Council approved an amendment to the city’s code that may have far-reaching implications for the future of ride-hailing apps in Austin and perhaps across the state.
KUT’s City Council reporter Audrey McGlinchy has been following the action at City Hall around regulations for transportation network companies. The City Council passed a resolution requiring 99 percent of drivers to pass fingerprint-based background checks by February 1, 2017.
“What they did not pass was what the penalties for not having these would be,” she says. “They left that open and that’s still to be determined.”
Part of the impetus for the resolution came from seven reported sexual assaults by Uber and Lyft drivers in Austin. “We don’t know if they would have been caught had they gone through a fingerprint-based background check,” she says.
McGlinchy says the city requires all other cab companies to run fingerprint-based background checks, so the city wants to get Uber and Lyft “in line” with those companies. ”
“There are a lot of advocates that say fingerprint-based background checks are more thorough than name-based or Social Security-based,” she says.
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.