What Rules To Govern Uber-Type Services?

Roll Call reports on Marc Scribner's presentation at a Cato Institute policy forum on ridesharing regulations:

But Marc Scribner of Competitive Enterprise Institute took a characteristically anti-regulatory stance.

Scribner opposed the idea of cities setting up “regulatory carve-outs” for services such as Sidecar and devising a set of rules to govern them apart from the traditional taxi cab regulations.

The carve-out would “codify an existing business model” and would discourage innovation, Scribner said.

That would be an especially unwise idea just as the car service companies head into the era of automated vehicles in the next few decades.

Imagine, for example, a future app-enabled fleet of autonomous minivans.

Such a van could be summoned to pick up five passengers who all happen to be ready to leave for work at 8:15 AM in one suburban neighborhood.

The van could bring them to a given intersection, 47th St and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, within a few blocks of the buildings where each of these people work.

Scribner said such services could compete with mass transit.

But autonomous vehicles could also threaten entrenched companies. Scribner said he worries that “some of these services that rely on drivers and on the distributed fleet ownership model may start to push back against some of these new technologies. That is to say, could Uber become the next taxicab cartel…?”

For now, Scribner said Uber can be a complement to mass transit systems’ subways and buses.

“For existing transit systems, we’ve long had first/last mile problems,” he said, referring to transit users who live, for example, a 30-minute walk from the nearest bus stop or commuter train station but don’t own a car. “This could solve some of those problems.”