Putting a finger on the problem between Uber and a growing number of destinations is easy. The ride-hailing darling of the sharing economy—along with its competitor, Lyft—is scoffing at requirements that its drivers undergo what is known as a fingerprint background check.
The conflict has grown so contentious that it drove Uber and Lyft out of Austin, Texas, in May. Similar rules in Houston have resulted in a threat there, while Uber and Lyft are blowing their horns at Chicago for considering the check.
At issue is the comprehensive nature of the fingerprint checks. Instead of the hours required by a standard background investigation performed by police, the more thorough searches can take months.
For drivers who see Uber and/or Lyft as a second job, the background check can become a deterrent, argues Uber. And without enough drivers on the roads, the car service companies become less effective—and in turn, less useful—to users.
Sarfraz Maredia, Uber’s general manager in Houston, had a blistering critique of the city’s policy in a blog post. “In Houston, the outdated and complex licensing process prevents many individuals who simply want to drive part time from doing so,” wrote Maredia.
The Austin CVB seems willing to ride out the dispute there. New bureau President and CEO Tom Noonan says the companies’ departures have accentuated the city’s innovative nature.
“There are several other ride-sharing apps that have been able to competitively and competently meet our demand,” says Noonan, highlighting Austin-based Ride Austin and Get Me. The situation also serves as a chance for the CVB to promote Austin’s public transportation system, adds Noonan.
Should Uber and Lyft take the exit ramp in Houston, it may only be temporary. The companies will have to decide if they’re willing to sit idle during next year’s Super Bowl, which promises to be a huge economic driver to businesses in the city. Similarly, Chicago is hoping this is the year the Cubs finally break their curse. Would either not want to cash in on the festivities?