Rideshare firms – Uber and Lyft – offer options, while disrupting status quo

By Saba Long

I commonly use a ridesharing service around town and, when possible, while traveling.

It wasn’t until a recent trip to Savannah that I realized how accustomed I’ve become to using them. When getting out of a cab on River Street, I nearly forgot to pay the driver, instead thinking my card had already been charged as it would if I were using Uber or Lyft.

Uber, leading the ridesharing pack, just received a remarkable $18 billion valuation. Venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz, whose early startup portfolio included Facebook and Airbnb, has put its money behind Lyft.

Both companies have just been banned from operating in Virginia, receiving cease and desist letters from the government. Seattle has limited the number of Uber and Lyft cars on the road at any given time. Florida too has regulated non-traditional taxis in an unduly burdensome manner.

Here in Georgia, both companies narrowly dodged significant regulation from the General Assembly; the jury is still out municipal level regulations.

Disrupting an industry through technology is nothing new. Remember Napster? The music industry did everything in its power to shut down file sharing portals. More and more music sharing apps popped like a game of whack amole. The industry filed suit after suit hoping to strip the life out those considering going against the labels. The more they fought, the worse they fared.

Even now, the disruption continues to evolve with apps likes Rdio and Spotify gaining international popularity.

The transportation industry is ripe for change. The stress of driving is burdensome. Across the country – state after state, and region after region – fail to take the calculated risk of heavily investing in infrastructure and alternatives to the car.

Uber and Lyft are just the start of upending a transportation industry ripe for change. In New York, Uber recently launched uberFamily, its standard service but with a child seat. Drivers are popping up all over the place. College students, retired teachers, yoga instructors, attorneys even.

In cities, like Atlanta, lacking a reliable last mile transit connectivity and a limited rail network, these service providers fill in the gap. And this is just the first iteration of what they’ve chosen to provide for the metro Atlanta market. Further services could include wheelchair accessible rides and bikesharing to name a few.

Are they worth multiple billions? Who knows?

But fighting off Uber and Lyft will do little to stop the disruption. If anything it will fuel the proliferation of the sharing economy.

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