Update: In a letter sent out by Uber, the company announced that it will continue to operate as normal despite Virginia’s letter.
Uber and Lyft may not be the best choices to call for a ride in Virginia for a while. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has ordered both companies to stop their services in Virginia right away for violating state law. Both companies are facing penalties for months of what the state has said are illegal operations, and will face even more if they continue after getting cease and desist orders.
“I am once again making clear that Lyft must cease and desist operating in Virginia until it obtains proper authority,” wrote Virginia DMV commissioner Richard Holcomb in the letter to Lyft, obtained by WTOP, with the same wording going into the letter to Uber. “Further, DMV will issue civil penalties to Lyft’s drivers that do not have authority to provide transportation for compensation.”
Both letters claim that the companies have been alerted repeatedly for months that they needed to get proper authorization before starting to give rides in Virginia but that those requests were ignored. The letters aren’t all doom and gloom though. They encourage the companies to join an ongoing passenger transportation regulation study in the state, with results going to the General Assembly in January.
“Uber has been providing Virginians with safe, affordable and reliable transportation options, so the DMV’s actions today are shocking and unexpected,” posted Uber in a statement. “We have been working in good faith with the DMV to create a regulatory framework that allows for modern business models like ridesharing. This decision is not in the best interest of Uber partners, who have been using the technology to make a living, create new jobs and contribute to the economy – or residents who rely on Uber for access to affordable, reliable transportation alternatives.”
Uber didn’t state outright whether or not it would comply with the order, but Lyft flat-out said it was already following all the rules and would not stop operating in Virginia. A bold move for a company whose cars aren’t exactly hard to spot. The mustache disguise works a lot better on people than motor vehicles. Lyft did say though it would work to help update laws with officials.
“As many of the current regulations surrounding taxis and limos were created before anything like Lyft’s peer-to-peer model was ever imagined, we’re committed to continuing to work with state officials to craft new rules for this new industry,” a statement from Lyft said. “We truly believe that if we approach situations like this positively and collaboratively, we can work together with local leaders to greatly improve transportation access, safety and affordability.”
Virginia of course, hopes that people traveling in the state will take their warnings to heart and only use authorized ride providers.
“I urge the citizens of Virginia to protect their families by using only companies that appear on DMV’s website as licensed transportation services. If it’s not on the list, it’s not recommended,” said Holcomb in a release.
What happens next depends on the companies and the states. It’s tempting to think of Uber and Lyft as an inevitable feature of transportation to come, but if San Francisco is anything to judge by, the fight between ride-sharing companies and government officials can be long and painful.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Virginia DMV to find a permanent home for ridesharing in the Commonwealth,” Uber’s statement concluded.
Image by Pkg203 via Wikipedia