North Carolina has become an attractive market for smartphone-based car services such as Uber and Lyft.
The apps are suited to the state’s mid-sized cities that have college students and young professionals but lack extensive public transport.
It’s also one of many states where little regulation exists outside of traditional cab and limo services.
Uber currently offers rides in 10 cities in North Carolina and the company says that’s more than any other state but California. Six of those cities have populations greater than 200,000, and all are home to universities.
The companies’ expansion has legislators in North Carolina and elsewhere scrambling to study their business models ahead of sessions in 2015 when they could address insurance, car inspections or criminal background checks.
Throw in concerns from traditional taxi companies and insurance lobbyists, and Uber and Lyft’s public policy staff should stay busy.
Lyft and Uber use a smartphone app to link customers with drivers selling rides in typically non commercial cars or SUVs, allowing people with little or no professional driving experience to make money.
Uber also works with licensed limo drivers in some markets.
Both services make drivers undergo criminal and traffic background checks, and drivers are rated by customers. Uber and Lyft say they also provide commercial auto insurance in North Carolina that kicks in when rides are ordered.
However, Uber and Lyft have faced several lawsuits in the past year across the US, claiming the companies operate in violation of state and local laws governing taxis.
Michael Solomon, president of the taxi cab service in the Raleigh area, said Uber and Lyft drivers should obtain commercial licence plates and have more extensive commercial insurance, just as traditional cab services are required to do.
“Any person who collects a passenger for a fee, no matter how it’s collected, should be held to the same standard,” he said.