A vote in Chicago this week could decide if Uber and Lyft will continue to operate there, as the vote from the full city council will determine whether or not ride-sharing firms will have to comply with the same types of regulations city-licensed taxi drivers are forced to.
Both Uber and Lyft have threatened to pull out of the city if the council approves the new rule.
The so-called “Rideshare Reform” rules have already passed a subcommittee of the Chicago City Council as of Friday, with the full vote scheduled for tomorrow.
The proposal requires drivers to get background checks and chauffeur licenses, as well as ensure that at least some vehicles are accessible to disabled riders. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel notably opposes the measure.
As, unsurprisingly, do Uber and Lyft, both of which claim that drivers already undergo background checks and that forcing their firm to conform to the same rules as taxis is a business model killer.
The face-off in Chicago follows about a month after a similar showdown in Austin after voters rejected a proposal by the two firms to self-regulate drivers. Drivers in Austin would have had to under go a fingerprint background check and have emblems on their cars. Both companies ultimately suspended service in Austin.
The Chicago debate and Austin pull-out foreshadow looming changes to driver requirements that are brewing in cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami and Seattle.
Uber and Lyft are not sitting still on the subject and have blitzed local media outlets with ads ahead of the vote, asking Chicagoans to weigh in.
Emanuel argues against the regulations purely on the popularity of both services, noting that Chicago is trying to change its reputation as the murder capital of the country with young, well-educated young people of the type that tend to frequent Uber and Lyft.
This, incidentally, fits nicely with the Uber/Lyft “forgiveness not permission” business model that sees them enter, ignore potential regulatory issues for as long as possible and then argue from popularity that they should not be forced to damage their beloved business by conforming to them.