With Uber still facing a few roadblocks when it comes to delivering luxury cab services to its customers, residents in Cambridge are coming to the company’s defense and trying to save innovation in the state.
A month after Massachusetts officials reversed a decision to ban Uber from operating as a livery company using GPS-devices to charge customers in the Boston-area, Cambridge city officials filed an appeal in Middlesex Superior Court.
“The taxi industry is heavily regulated for reasons of public safety, consumer protection, and fair competition. To allow Uber to side-step the applicable laws and regulations goes against those principles,” said the city, via a statement from Ini Tomeu, Public Information Officer for Cambridge.
Cambridge City Council members will discuss the pending litigation during a meeting on Monday night.
Tomeu said Cambridge filed the appeal on Sept. 14, and given Uber’s device is a measuring device and taximeter, it should be subject to the applicable regulations.
“The City’s position is that the Uber-issued iPhone, as part of Uber’s three-part GPS measuring system for calculating fare, is a nonconforming measuring device and more specifically a taximeter, as defined by Massachusetts General Laws,” she said.
Uber uses a smartphone app to dispatch drivers to pick up customers at their request. People using the iPhone or Android program can watch on a map as the vehicle approaches the destination and get distinct arrival times. Customers’ credit card information is stored on the system, so they don’t have to deal with the hassle of the transaction once they reach their desired stop.
In early August, Uber was issued a cease and desist by the state’s Division of Standards for using that type of system to calculate travel costs.
According to the division, “only approved devices can be used in commercial transactions” and “the use of the unapproved GPS systems to assess transportation charges” had to stop immediately.
But on August 15, the decision to keep Uber from operating was overturned with the help of Governor Deval Patrick, after supporters of Uber filed a petition and accused the state of trying to stomp out innovative companies.
The state learned that the device Uber uses to calculate rides was already being evaluated for certification by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and therefore, they could keep operating.
That turnaround didn’t sit well with the city of Cambridge, however.
Despite the overturned decision to allow Uber to continue its operations, on September 14, Cambridge decided to fight the state’s decision by filing an appeal in Massachusetts Superior Court, according to Tomeu.
Uber called Cambridge’s policies “backward” and said they were confident they would prevail.
“The city of Cambridge, home to Harvard and MIT, ironically has some of the most backward policies toward transportation innovation in the country. Fortunately for the residents of Cambridge, the law and reason are going to prevail where cronyism and protectionism are currently flourishing,” according to a statement from the company.
Uber recently launched Uber TAXI, a service that works directly with licensed city of Boston cab drivers to make it easier for clients to “e-hail” a cab.