Ride or Die

Uber’s New Policy on Ridesharing: We’ll Start Doing It, as Long as Our Competitors Aren’t Caught

"Everyone's private driver" expands.
(Photo: File)

(Photo: File)

Today, Uber CEO bestowed unto the world a white paper on ridesharing. And in classic Uber fashion, the policy finds a workaround to traditional law-abiding. The company says it will launch the service if it sees its competitors (Lyft, Sidecar, etc.) operating for 30 days with “tacit approval” from law officials, i.e. if no one gets in trouble.

The San Francisco-based company said its decision was formed after seeing its ridesharing competitors circumvent laws by providing “non-licensed transportation for compensation.” Uber’s core business of being “everyone’s private driver” has caught flak from several cities for operating a livery company without official approval.

(Last year, Uber tried to expand its New York City operations from black cars into yellow cabs. However, it jumped the gun on approval from the Taxi and Limousine Commission. UberTAXI, as it billed itself, lasted only a month.)

Now, as Uber sees its competitors quickly grow without facing the same regulatory blowback, the company said it might offer ridesharing services in the face of its competitors “aggressive” operations:

So over the last year we’ve stayed out of the ridesharing fray due to perceived regulatory risk and watched two competitors roll out in a few cities in which we already operate, without nearly the same level of constraints or costs, offering a far cheaper product.

Uber’s ridesharing service will contain hefty safeguards, like a $2 million insurance policy and strict background checks, in the “absence of regulatory clarity.” It will not roll out a ridesharing service if it sees its competitors face “clear and consistent enforcement” within 30 days of its debut, which sounds like an awfully short time frame for bureaucrats.

In comments to the Wall Street Journal, it’s clear that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is sticking to his “disruptive” Randian ways:

“Regulatory risk is a spectrum,” Kalanick said. “What I would say is that they’ve gone all the way to the extreme. And we, as much as folks said ‘Wow, Uber is very brazen,’ these guys are far more, and that’s why we sat on sidelines for a year.

“But that said,” he added, “I think there’s a fundamental difference versus how we handle innovation versus traditional companies: we get in and go and do it.”

Or, do it after a month.

Follow Jordan Valinsky on Twitter or via RSS. jvalinsky@observer.com