By Jazzy Teen
Listen Up, Lansing
LANSING – Uber, a worldwide ride-sharing company priding itself in efficient service and safety through a downloadable app, may be in trouble in the state of Michigan.
On March 25, Uber drivers and protestors gathered at the Capitol while state legislature held a public testimony to determine the fate of Uber in the state and discuss restrictions they hope to impose on the company, except the vote is now being pushed off till a later time.
The two bills, according to Mike White, Michigan’s Uber general manager, are Senate Bill 0184 and Senate Bill 0188.
Michigan Legislature’s website includes full documentation detailing the two bills.
The basis of Senate Bill 0184 would put transportation companies like Uber and Lyft, a ride sharing company out of Ann Arbor, at the same insurance standards as limousines while allowing cities to regulate the companies at their own discretion.
The second bill, Senate Bill 0188, would require drivers to hold a chauffeur’s license and put limits on what insurance the companies’ vehicles carry.
According to Lansing-area Uber drivers Richard Keck and Jeremy Danbrook, an email was sent to all Uber drivers in the state March 23, explaining the preceding bills and what drivers can do to support Uber’s cause.
“The hearing room was full with at least 60-70 people in attendance. Prior to the hearing we had lunch while Uber explained what the state was trying to do and what we should expect to hear later in the day,” said Danbrook.
“There were drivers from all over, not just Lansing-some from Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids.”
White, who has been with Uber since its entrance into Michigan in March 2013, said that with the standards the state is trying to impose, Uber could not operate and would be forced to shut down its operation in Michigan. These standards are some of the strictest Uber has seen across the country.
“The technology that Uber uses now assures safety and these bills don’t address as high of a safety standard and does not require safety technology tracking requirements, but what they have instead is lot of regulatory standards,” said White.
“This would cost the company hundreds and thousands of dollars in registration fees, each driver to buy own insurance, along with a lot of barriers for drivers to operate quickly under our platform.”
According to White, a strong factor in Uber’s success is its ability to put drivers into their platform quickly to meet the high demand of rides. Drivers use their own cars, which allows convenience and abundance in driver supply.
“The best way to summarize our problem with these bills is that they are essentially trying to get Uber to fit into a taxi company regime,” said White.
According to White, the majority of drivers use their Uber service as a part-time job.
“I drop my kids off on the west side of town, so when I go to and from I turn on the app to see if I can catch a ride. If I get someone, cool, if not that’s fine because Friday and Saturday nights are always super busy here,” said Danbrook.
“What Uber said to us was if this regulation passes, it will push Uber out of the state because drivers like me who drive for only 10 hours a week are not going to absorb or require all that extra costs the state is trying to place on drivers.”
When speaking with both drivers and White, a question of safety was discussed as many in opposition of Uber could claim the ride sharing company is unsafe and too lenient in driver selection.
“I would feel comfortable letting my daughter use Uber,” said Keck.
According to White, the background check to permit someone as an Uber driver is extensive.
“Uber safety is a top priority. We have innovative and new high-quality procedures in place that far exceed taxi requirements in the state of Michigan,” said White.
“We really want to be an open platform, as anyone can participate by using own vehicle. However, to be qualified, you must consent to several background checks that usually weed out a majority of applicants.”
According to White, the first step is to apply online and consent to federal, county, and multistate background checks. This includes access to driving records, which finds any reckless driving accounts or consistent tickets.
Verifying that the driver has a valid operator’s license, as well as active insurance is vital in the selection process said White.
“All drivers must be ran through a sexual offender check as well and any discrepancies obviously are withdrawn from the selection process,” said White.
Another requirement of Uber is that all cars must be no more than 10 years old and require a 19-point vehicle inspection according to White.
“When Uber customers use their app to request a ride, you will notice at the bottom of the screen that there is a picture of the driver, their name, license plate number, and type of car. The second you request a ride, Uber is being tracked through our system and we can see exactly where the car is going,” said White.
There is also an option to send a link to a friend or family member through text message that allows them to track your whereabouts and give a real-time update to estimate time of arrival.
After rides, ratings are required before choosing your next ride so quick feedback is available for driver analysis and efficiency.
Mackenzie Haltom, a Lansing Community College student lives near the East Lansing area and uses Uber often, especially on weekends.
“When I’m out late and want to get home, I don’t feel comfortable waiting 30, 40 minutes, sometimes even an hour for a cab to arrive. With Uber I know I will get home safe and not once have I felt threatened,” said Haltom.
“If Uber leaves major cities or college towns, it will be a huge loss.”
Currently, a petition has been emailed and passed around Facebook by Michigan Freedom Fund to keep Uber and Lyft in Michigan. Currently 142 signatures have been collected.
According to White, since Uber has been placed in cities, DUI rates have decreased substantially. In Philadelphia, a 10 percent reduction has occurred, while a 20 percent reduction appeared in Austin, Texas.
“There is a real need for people to get rides at those critical times. Often when one has too many to drink for example, decisions are blurred and may result in dangerous situations if waiting for a ride for too long,” said White.
“Aside from safety of the customer, drivers do not carry cash because all payment is done electronically through the app. That makes drivers less of a target.”
Currently, the legislature is on a two-week spring break, and no further detail is given to Uber on when the topic will be discussed again.
White was asked if he truly believes that Uber will ultimately be banned in Michigan as it is in Las Vegas.
“We certainly hope not. We are very much looking forward to working with legislation and find a regulatory structure that supports Uber’s policy and statewide standards,” said White.
“We are supportive of new regulations but hope safety requirements are enforced and not limit Uber’s ability to operate.”