Cars in Philadelphia and Austin are at risk of being impounded for sharing.
If you believe in the sharing economy the time has come to lend your voice. Please sign our petition to support the right to share resources in Philadelphia, Austin and elsewhere.
Please sign our Change.org petition.
Yesterday we received a cease and desist letter from The Austin Transportation Department that alleges SideCar is violating city code by operating as an illegal taxi company. We also learned recently that the Austin City Council will vote tomorrow on a law that would make it a crime to share gas money for a carpool. This law will allow local taxi regulators to file criminal charges and impound the vehicles of anyone who shares a ride and exchanges compensation of any kind.
We firmly disagree with The Austin Transportation Department’s contention that SideCar is an illegal taxi service or that people who use SideCar (or carpools for that matter) to get matched for a shared ride are criminals. Here are copies of the memo and letter we submitted addressing Austin’s City Transportation Code. SideCar will continue to operate in Austin as scheduled.
SideCar is not a taxi company. SideCar is a smartphone app that instantly matches people for peer-to-peer ridesharing. SideCar drivers are regular, everyday people willing to give rides to people who need them. People pay what they want and drivers choose when they drive, how often they drive and where they go. Drivers love SideCar because it helps them pay the costs associated with having a car.
We’ve had a busy week. Last weekend SideCar was the target of an orchestrated sting operation conducted by the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA), which regulates taxis.
SideCar leads a movement to build a transportation sharing economy that results in a cleaner, greener and a more socially connected community. We believe that having the right to offer a technology platform that enables the sharing of resources is an important principle for the entire sharing economy.
Innovation is under attack. Innovators have always faced opposition from traditionalists who are threatened by new ways of thinking. Battles may ensue but in the end innovation will win.
Transportation is too important to close the door on innovation. We created SideCar because we have a vision to leverage technology to empower communities to solve their own transportation problems. We have a vision for transportation that is more affordable, sustainable and fun. Ridesharing isn’t a commercial transaction – it’s the community pulling together to fix transportation. The question is will the community stand up for what is right and not let the buddies of taxi companies run the show?
Innovation will not happen if government regulators are in charge. Imagine this: What if “meter maids” ran Twitter?
Politicians care about how their city is viewed by the rest of the world. With enough signatures and calls, they will take action to give sharing a chance.
1) Please sign our Change.org petition.
2) Email Mayor Lee Leffingwell or call his office at (512) 974-2250.
Leave a polite, but firm message that you support the sharing economy and to please give innovation a chance to flourish in your city.
Please share this blog post on Twitter and Facebook:
Do you believe in sharing? We need your voice: http://chn.ge/YAQYag #defendsharing
Thank you and
SideCar Technologies, Inc.
SideCar’s mission is to make transportation safer, sustainable, fun and better for our communities. We’re surprised and disappointed to tell you that the defenders of the status quo aren’t quite on board yet in Philadelphia.
On Saturday, SideCar was the target of an orchestrated sting operation conducted by the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA), which regulates taxis. Three everyday drivers in our community were given hefty citations and had their cars impounded, leaving them alone in the dark and cold in need of a ride home. The citations wrongly assert that SideCar and its community of drivers and riders is an “unauthorized service provider.” SideCar is a technology platform that enables peer-to-peer ridesharing. Our smartphone app instantly matches people who need a ride with regular, everyday drivers who are willing to give them one. With SideCar, payment is voluntary and you pay what you want. SideCar is safe. We run more checks on our drivers than taxi or limo services. Plus, all matched rides are recorded and GPS tracked for safety.
Transportation is too important to blindly close the door on innovation. The actions on Saturday night will not distract us from our important mission to revolutionize a transportation model that hasn’t innovated in almost half a century.
SideCar chose Philadelphia as its first East Coast city because of its reputation as a center of innovation and its forward-looking government. We remain confident these characteristics of this great city will prevail over the defenders of entrenched interests threatened by progress and the unknown.
The success of the emerging sharing economy depends on the ability to share resources with others using technology. SideCar is a leader in this new space. In less than one year we’ve become the largest instant rideshare community in the U.S., matching more than 100,000 rides. We understand that the sharing economy is new to regulators and that some will misunderstand the model or perceive it as a threat to the companies they regulate. As we sort things out with regulators, SideCar will continue to operate in Philadelphia so its citizens can continue to experience the benefits and joys of rideshare.
We look forward to continuing and expanding our conversations with city and civic leaders.
CEO, SideCar Technologies, Inc.
We recently asked SideCar riders where they feel safer – a taxi or a ride connected by SideCar? A whopping 71% said they felt safer with SideCar than taxis. We think the reason is that government efforts to protect public safety haven’t kept up with the innovations of the Internet, social media and smartphone apps. SideCar provides a 10-point safety system that includes community feedback on drivers, GPS tracking of the vehicles, electronic background checks and our unique ability to share details of a trip with others.
SideCar responds to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)
SideCar responded yesterday to the CPUC’s order to institute rulemaking on ridesharing “to protect public safety” and encourage technology innovation in transportation. In our comments and recommendations to the CPUC we argue that SideCar is not only safe, it’s safer than taxis and limos. We also point out that the current safety regulations for taxis and limos don’t appear to be based on data and are probably a result of historical, political and industry pressure. For example, did you know drug testing is not required to become a cab driver in San Francisco? Are you aware that a convicted felon can get a license to drive a limo in California because no background checks are required?
SideCar’s response yesterday lays the groundwork for the future of transportation. California is poised to become a global leader in the transportation information technology revolution but first we must figure out how to encourage innovation rather than stifle it. What works in California is often copied around the world, so these decisions have global implications. Here are highlights of our comments to the CPUC:
If you want safety, build community
Sidecar believes that the stronger our community, the better the safety. The SideCar community sets and enforces high standards for safety and quality. Drivers and riders rate one another and people with low ratings are removed from the SideCar community. We believe that by giving the community the capability to monitor itself we can build trust and safety to a level impossible to achieve through either the marketplace or government alone. The combination of these features and processes provides consumers with a greater degree of security and safety than taxi or limos.
A bright line needs to be drawn for rideshare
SideCar enables true rideshare because it is the only smartphone enabled transportation solution that requires destination at the start of a ride. Simply put, rideshare is not rideshare if the driver doesn’t first know where he or she is going. SideCar is the only service cited by the CPUC that enables its community to use the safe harbor of the ridesharing provisions because only SideCar requires destination from riders and shows it to drivers. Setting a maximum amount of money that can be earned would also provide clarity for drivers and insurers.
Destination builds safety and trust
Unique to SideCar is that both passenger and driver know where the car is headed. Drivers have peace of mind that they won’t be asked to drive somewhere they aren’t comfortable. Passengers have confidence that the driver knows where they are going. And because destination is required, riders can share where they’re going and live updates of their trip with someone else.
The good of the nation requires destination
Ridesharing reduces emissions that cause health problems and climate change, reduces traffic and makes more efficient use of publicly funded infrastructure. We only get these benefits if the driver can plan the trip, which requires destination from the rider. Without destination, a smartphone app for transportation is likely to increase emissions, congestion and overuse of public infrastructure.
SideCar has the potential to transform and offer a fundamentally different model for addressing critical environmental, economic and quality of life issues across California and our Nation. We are optimistic the rulemaking process will clarify the ridesharing law by drawing a bright line that distinguishes peer-to-peer rideshare platforms like SideCar’s and those companies who use smartphone technology to dispatch and provide transportation services.
SideCar Technologies, Inc.
Today marks a critical milestone for SideCar and for rideshare. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved a proposal to begin the process of reviewing and modifying existing transportation regulations to accommodate smartphone app companies like SideCar. We applaud the CPUC on their decision to move forward with the rulemaking process. This is a real win for rideshare because it demonstrates that policymakers are open to innovative technology solutions that make transportation safer, more efficient and better for our communities.
When we began SideCar in February 2012, we imagined a world with better transportation options. Thanks to you we’ve grown to be the largest instant rideshare community with more than 500 drivers facilitating over 100,000 rides. As the rideshare leader, we’ve been working closely with the CPUC to ensure that rules are in place to allow for the introduction of innovative smart technologies and transportation business models that are better for our communities.
Thanks to all of you who joined together with us in support of rideshare. Our voices have been heard and that’s cause for celebration! But there’s still work to do. As we grow and expand nationally we may need to call on you again. If you haven’t signed the petition yet, you can do so here.
We’re on a mission to revolutionize the way we get around. As we roll instant rideshare into new markets next year, we’ll continue to establish and maintain a collaborative dialogue with local regulators. Rideshare and SideCar have come a long way in just a few months. This mission to reinvent transportation is a journey. We’re excited to be on it together.
Ride On and Happy Holidays!
When we first revved up SideCar back in February 2012 we were determined to create a great experience for a whole community of drivers and riders while staying in line with the current transportation regulations. We struggled with one decision in particular: should we require the rider to include destination in his or her request, thus giving drivers a choice about whether to pick him or her up? There were some solid arguments against it:
- It adds an extra step to the ride request
- It adds more information to the app design, perhaps cluttering the experience
- Would it cause drivers to reject rides?
We thought long and hard about all these points and in the end we decided to include destination and choice, and we worked hard to do it right. Why? Quite simply, rideshare is not rideshare if the driver doesn’t know where he or she is going. Without destination, an everyday driver cannot make an informed decision about whether it makes sense to share a ride. Without destination, drivers would be accepting requests blindly, not knowing whether they were going to the beach or across the Bay Bridge. Without driver choice, this sure didn’t sound like rideshare to us, and it felt like a disservice to drivers. As anyone who’s ever taken a SideCar ride knows, drivers are incredibly important members of this community.
It hasn’t always been easy going this route. We hear riders asking why destination is required and we know it can be frustrating to send a request when cars are available and not have it accepted. The flip side is that we hear drivers tell us constantly that this freedom of choice is what encourages and empowers them to drive. As a result, we’re seeing more and more drivers come online every day, and more and more riders are getting where they need to go. The rideshare revolution is now truly taking off, and destination and choice have a whole lot to do with it.
We are humbled by the amazing support we’ve received from people in San Francisco and beyond in support of ridesharing services like SideCar. Over 6,400 people have signed the Change.org petition to encourage the CPUC to support ridesharing and transportation innovation. We have come together in support of ridesharing and we’re pleased to report progress has been made on all sides. This morning the CPUC released an Order Instituting Rulemaking (OIR), a proposal to initiate a proceeding to modify the existing CPUC transportation regulations.
The CPUC staff stated in the OIR draft:
“Businesses like Sidecar and Lyft have presented the Commission with a situation not encountered before: the use of mobile communications and social networks to connect individuals wishing to offer and receive low cost and convenient, sometimes shared, transportation.”
Subject to final approval by the Commissioners, this proposal moves the focus toward a constructive dialogue with the Commission about how to apply CPUC regulations to these new business models and digital media. You can find the full text of the OIR here.
A new medium needs new rules. New technology and innovation will always require regulators to review their policies. Your support has made a difference. With your help we’re now having a productive public policy conversation and we’re moving in the right direction.
We are just getting started. We may need your voice again so please stay tuned.
CEO | SideCar
Yesterday SideCar received a citation from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) imposing fines of $20,000 and asserting that we are operating a transportation carrier, which is like saying Airbnb is a hotel chain, that Travelocity is an airline, or that eBay is a store. We established SideCar to allow drivers and passengers to connect with one another under the safe harbor of the ridesharing provisions of the law. We neither own nor operate cars. We neither employ nor use contract drivers. We connect a community of like-minded people who volunteer to give rides to one another in a safer, faster, and more convenient way than casual carpool or a bulletin board like Craigslist.
Inspired by the casual carpool system that moves over 5,000 people daily in the Bay Area, we have abided by the basic principles of a true community marketplace:
- Drivers have choice and can decide if a trip makes sense for them to accept. The SideCar driver app interface shows both pickup and drop off locations for each ride request so it’s easy to determine whether rideshare will work for the particular driver and trip.
- Riders have a choice of which driver to ask for a ride. We default the choice to “closest driver” but you can change it to other drivers. I regularly request rides from drivers who have become friends.
- We do not set or assess a fare or rate. Payment is entirely voluntary and the starting point for payment is merely the average of what other passengers have paid. The community is creating the guidance, and neither the driver nor SideCar can require compensation of any amount.
When we launched SideCar we imagined a world with transportation options that are more sustainable, more social, safer, and more affordable than today’s solutions. SideCar is not just a company, but part of a large movement to use smartphones to enable owners of assets to share and collaborate with others for greater efficiency. These technologies and ideas are new to government, so it’s no surprise that early reactions are to force us in a box that is convenient for regulators to understand.
We are determined to continue our conversations with the CPUC and other authorities in order to educate them on the value of SideCar and the sharing economy as a whole. This ticket certainly has our attention, but it will not sidetrack us from our broad and important mission to reform a transportation model and legacy regulatory system that hasn’t evolved or innovated in almost half a century.
WE NEED YOUR VOICE
Ridesharing may be the sharing industry’s canary in the coalmine and it’s up to us to guard against this regulatory overreach to prevent a broader assault on individual property, communications and association rights. As a community we must stand together. We need to let California officials know that we support and embrace transportation innovation. Here’s what you can do:
- Tell the CPUC to support ridesharing services by signing and sharing the petition: https://www.change.org/petitions/tell-the-puc-to-support-ride-sharing-services
- Let your voice be heard on Twitter and Facebook. Use the hashtag #defendsharing and show that you are part of the movement to create a better world.
- Contact Governor Brown’s office and let them know you support transportation innovation.
In our continued effort to provide transparency throughout this process, you’ll find a scan of our citation below.
Thank you for your support.
We founded SideCar to revolutionize the way we get around. Using smartphone technology, we instantly connect everyday drivers with people nearby looking for a ride. This idea, while simple, is actually a movement with global implications. We believe information technology is our most significant lever against climate change and urban congestion and can serve as a catalyst for a more connected community. We have an ambitious plan to make transportation safer, more efficient and better for our communities. In San Francisco and now Seattle, we’ve made great strides in that direction.
As leaders in this transportation movement, by building the first and most successful real-time volunteer rideshare community, we’ve come under the scrutiny of local regulators who operate under antiquated laws that predate the smartphone and even the computer. In August, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) informed SideCar that it must cease and desist operations as a “charter party carrier.” A couple of weeks ago, the CPUC issued SideCar a request for business records that further underscored their lack of understanding of what we do. While we welcome an ongoing dialogue with local regulators, we stand firm that reflexive and rigid enforcement of local regulations in a manner that does not allow for the introduction of innovative smart technologies and transportation business models will stifle innovation, restrict economic growth and is ultimately not good for our communities.
In the spirit of transparency, we’ve shared the letter with you below to shine a spotlight on the type of scrutiny we’ve come under by enabling a transportation alternative. We also want to assure you that while we’ll continue to work with local regulators, the safety of our drivers, passengers and the general public is paramount. We take very seriously the trust our community has placed in us to keep their personal information private and will do everything in our power to ensure the highest level of personal privacy protection.
We see a huge opportunity to work together with regulators to encourage innovation in a sector that hasn’t seen fundamental regulatory or technological change in the last fifty years. To make the most of this opportunity, we’ve brought on David Phillips as our EVP of Policy & General Counsel. Dave couldn’t be better suited for this role, with 20 years experience navigating the application of legal, regulatory and policy issues to the Internet and digital media with breakthrough companies like AOL, AOL-Bertelsmann Europe, Napster, and IGN/Fox Interactive Media. Dave has always been at the forefront of innovation, working at the intersection of regulation and new technologies to craft new rules that bring about critical change.
In the early days, services like AOL and CompuServe ran up against similar roadblocks with regulators labeling and attempting to regulate them as newspapers, broadcasters or common carriers. Dave played a critical industry role in changing federal and state laws and regulations as they applied to online services. At SideCar, Dave will help educate government on the environmental, economic and social benefits of empowering people to use smartphone technologies to rideshare safely and efficiently. We believe there is an important role for regulation in this new world but that regulations must be applied and evolve to serve the public good. We’re traveling unchartered territory and the road to success will be bumpy at times. We’re prepared to help navigate this evolving territory effectively and to everyone’s benefit. We believe that when it comes to transportation, innovation will win.
Today we announced that we have raised a Series A round of $10 million from Lightspeed and Google Ventures.
It’s great to be working with these two firms to help build SideCar. Justin Caldbeck from Lightspeed has a lot of experience with two-sided markets through his work helping TaskRabbit and GrubHub. We are looking forward to his insight and help as a member of the board. Joe Kraus from Google Ventures has built several successful companies and knows transportation from his investment in RelayRides. We expect to lean on his experience and others at Google as we build SideCar.
We will use the funds for three goals. Expand the team. We are currently just under 20 people and we expect to roughly double in size with more amazing people. Expand the product offering. We will make SideCar even more awesome to the point that it becomes like magic. Finally, we will take the SideCar love that we developed here in San Francisco and bring it to the world.
A big thanks goes out to the SideCar community… drivers, passengers and supporters. We have done something amazing together. A volunteer network has built a new transportation service in a major city. It’s an awesome thing to be a part of and we’re just getting started.