Tech

Ride sharing app SideCar now allowed to operate in California

By Michael Mayday , May 25, 2013 01:31 PM EDT

Peer-to-peer ride sharing app, SideCar, has been cleared to operate on the streets of California by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Not that the company hadn't been operating before.

SideCar, much like Uber and Lyft, had been fined $20,000 by the California state government, and was sent cease-and-desist orders late last year. The company, like its competitors, ignored the order, kept its drivers on the road and continued to operate normally.

But Uber and Lyft made agreements with the CPUC in January. SideCar did not.

But that changed Friday, according to AllThingsD, when SideCar got a formal approval from the CPUC.

The approval comes after a long negotiation between the two entities, and it seems SideCar came out on top. The company has allegedly convinced the CPUC to forgo the Californian government agency's ability to obtain driver information without a subpoena, and to recognize SideCar as an information service, rather than a transportation service.

SideCar CEO Sunil Paul said he doesn't consider his company to be a transportation service because it requires users to give their end destination in order to match them up with a driver.

"We like the analogy of Match.com versus arranged marriage," Paul said. "We are a data and not a transportation service."

That explanation hasn't convinced all of SideCar's critics, most notably the taxi industry. That industry is convinced that SideCar, Uber and Lyft are not only putting regular taxi drivers out of work, but that they're operating illegal and putting public safety in danger by not properly vetting and certifying their drivers. Some city regulators, like those found in New York City, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, are inclined to agree, and actively go out on stings to fine drivers.

While the CPUC decision helps, it doesn't mean SideCar and its brethren will be able to operate without impunity for long. The CPUC is reviewing its rules around ridesharing and, towards the end of the summer, will announce whether or not these services fall under its jurisdiction.

And the company has other authorities to contend with too; Austin's city council will hold a vote next month to determine with the service can operate in the Texas city.

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