Uber, Lyft exit Austin over fingerprint checks

WASHINGTON • Ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft are set to quit the Texas city of Austin after voters said fingerprinting should be part of driver background checks.

The firms had poured US$8.6 million (S$11.7 million) into a campaign to keep fingerprinting, which can be expensive and time- consuming, out of driver checks.

Results from the vote on Proposition One - the most expensive campaign in city history - showed 56 per cent in favour of fingerprint checks, compared to 44 per cent against, according to the Austin American-Statesman newspaper.

The vote came after the city council passed an ordinance last December that, among other rules for ride-sharing companies, required their drivers to undergo fingerprint-based background checks by Feb 1, 2017.

Uber and Lyft said after the results of last Saturday's vote that they were set to suspend operations in Austin, the capital city of Texas, this morning.

"Disappointment does not begin to describe how we feel about shutting down operations in Austin," Uber Austin general manager Chris Nakutis said.

Lyft said: "We're very disappointed to leave the Lyft Austin community - and we hope to come back soon."

New York and Houston are the only US cities that now require fingerprinting for ride-sharing drivers, media reports said.

Uber has threatened to pull out of Houston if fingerprinting rules are not changed, saying they hamper driver recruitment.

Business is booming for ride- sharing firms but they face tricky regulatory issues in many cities worldwide, including in Asia.

They are up against stiff resistance from traditional taxi drivers, as well as bans in some places over safety concerns and questions over legal issues, including taxes.

Last week, Uber announced a policy board that includes a former European Commission vice-president to help the company overcome regulatory and other hurdles.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'Uber, Lyft exit Austin over fingerprint checks'. Print Edition | Subscribe