Republicans Shouldn’t be in the Business of Regulating Ridesharing

Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.

If you’ve kept an eye on the 2020 race, you know that criticizing the ridesharing industry has become quite trendy among Democratic contenders. The call for higher pay and more benefits for drivers is a regular refrain of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, even while their campaigns spend thousands on rideshares.


While this rush to regulate is hardly a surprise from Democrats, it’s more concerning when it comes from the right. Republican Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) has proposed a new bill that marks the latest attempt to tighten Washington’s grip on the $60 billion ridesharing industry. Like many misguided regulations (think gun control), it started as a well-meaning response to a genuine tragedy.


Earlier this year, a college student in South Carolina was abducted and killed after getting in what she thought was the car she ordered on a ridesharing app. It was a sickening story that struck a nerve with many Americans, in part because so many of us have been in that same situation: we order a ride, see a car pull up, and assume it’s ours without really checking.


Still, despite how common the mistake is, and despite more than 6 billion rides being taken every year, this tragedy was the first of its kind. And as far back as the summer of 2017, major ridesharing companies had been waging public awareness campaigns to help riders avoid getting in the wrong car.


In response to the tragedy, ridesharing companies began implementing new safety measures such as push alerts warning riders to check the car’s license plate before getting in. These features add to what is already a fundamentally safe experience for riders and drivers alike.


But Washington has better ideas, or so it thinks. The new law would require all drivers to have at least two “identifying markers” on the front windshield and rear window, plus two placards with their name, picture, and license plate number on the rear side windows, and—here’s the kicker—two copies of a barcode on the rear side windows that a passenger can scan to confirm the vehicle is the one they ordered.


What exactly is the point of any of this? Aren’t “identifying markers” on the front and back of a car sort of like license plates? And isn’t looking at a license plate with your own eyes easier than scanning a barcode with your phone?


Let’s not forget, ridesharing has been a revolution in transportation safety from the very beginning. The exchange of rider and driver information allows both parties to know exactly who they’re getting. Automatic GPS tracking prevents the shady detours that can make cab rides scary. And of course, who can calculate the number of drunk driving deaths prevented by the ease of ordering a car with the tap of a finger?


Unnecessary regulation of this ilk is part of big government’s preferred playbook, but no conservative should be a part of it. Republicans such as Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), and Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) should think twice before supporting a bill that makes ridesharing more complicated for millions of Americans.


Instead of coming in on the back of a highly public tragedy with clumsy regulations, Congress should look for ways to augment ridesharing’s winning formula. It has made our roads less congested, our lives easier, and millions of Americans more financially secure. By trying to perfectly sterilize what is already a highly safe experience, Washington risks killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

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