Yesterday, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles sent cease-and-desist letters to ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft for not complying with state taxi regulations. Uber and Lyft continued to operate despite warnings in April that their for-hire business models defied state law.
As a Virginia resident and satisfied Uber customer I would like to thank the Virginia DMV for protecting me from the dangers of affordable and convenient transportation.
No really, thanks.
Since its founding in 2009, Uber has been a success. Investors are so optimistic about Uber that it currently has a $17 billion valuation, a record for a technology startup in a direct investment round.
The Virginia DMV argues that it is only enforcing current taxi law, and they have a point. The real problem here is outdated and protectionist restrictions, not their enforcement.
Regulations like these better serve to protect the interests of current businesses—in this case traditional cab companies—rather than actual consumers. Had similar protectionist policies applied to telecommunications, we could still be using house phones rather than cell phones. (What’s a house phone?)
I know, I know. New things are scary! Change is uncomfortable! In the 1940s it was air conditioning. How would the legislative process change now that legislators could stay in the capital year round? What would be the environmental impact? Then it was the Internet. How would Al Gore’s latest invention impact traditional media?
Imagine, if you can, life today without air conditioning and the Internet.
Innovation makes life better, and heavy regulations on new technologies can keep people from experiencing that higher quality of life.
At 2 p.m. today I received a mass email from Uber titled, “You Have the Right to Ride”:
If you want continued access to the safest and most affordable rides on the road, we need you to email, call and tweet your policymakers and tell them #VAneedsUber. Let Virginia policymakers know that banning ridesharing not only harms the countless riders who use the platform to connect with safe, affordable and reliable rides, but it also hurts thousands of small business entrepreneurs who rely on the platform to make a living, create new jobs and contribute to the economy.
From this point forward, early in the morning when I don’t feel like taking the Metro and want a few extra snoozes, or at 2 a.m. when I want a ride home from a D.C. bar, I plan on texting my Virginia state senator instead of using the Uber App.