House lawmakers approve safety standards for ride-hailing companies

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation on Wednesday requiring ride-hailing companies to establish a digital method that matches drivers with passengers before the beginning of a trip.

Introduced last year by Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, Sami’s Law, named after college student Samantha Josephson, who was killed by a person impersonating her Uber driver, has bipartisan support improving its chances of eventually being signed into law. The U.S. Senate has not yet taken up the legislation.

“Lawmakers at the federal, state, and local level need to think beyond whether ride-hailing gets people from point A to point B, and work to ensure that TNCs [transportation network companies] deliver a public service safely and equitably, not a race to the bottom for passengers and transportation workers,” commented House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon. “This bill is an important step in setting an appropriate regulatory floor.”

The law includes penalties of up to $20,000 a day for noncompliance.

Ride-hailing companies Uber (NYSE: UBER) and Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT), which were taken to task on Capitol Hill last year for not appearing at a hearing to discuss safety issues involving independent contractors, acknowledged the need for the legislation.

“Today’s passage of ‘Sami’s Law’ is another step in the ongoing work to help improve safety on rideshare by leveraging education and technology,” said Danielle Burr, head of Uber federal affairs. “At Uber, our work on safety is never done and we remain committed to continue doing our part to help keep riders and drivers safe while using the platform.”

Dan Katz, senior director of public policy for Lyft, commented, “The Josephson family and Congressman Smith have worked tirelessly to champion Sami’s Law. We have and will continue to prioritize safety within the Lyft community.”

Within 90 days of enactment, the bill requires TNCs to establish a digital means for a passenger to verify that the driver has been authorized by the TNC to accept the passenger’s trip request before the trip starts.

“Such a system must include the ability for the passenger, driver and TNC platform to confirm the information matching the passenger to the authorized TNC driver or TNC vehicle, and the ability to restrict a trip from commencing until both the passenger and the TNC driver verify the other’s identity using the system,” according to a bill summary. Passengers would have the ability to opt out of using the system.

The bill puts in place a process for the U.S. secretary of transportation to issue performance standards for successor verification technologies, and establishes an advisory council made up of federal officials, representatives of TNCs, TNC drivers, law enforcement, victims’ advocacy groups and those with disabilities to develop recommendations on successor technologies.

Sami’s Law also prohibits the sale of any signage designed to help a passenger identify a ride-hailing vehicle — such as a window sticker with the company’s logo — unless authorized by the company.

The law directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on assaults on TNC passengers and TNC drivers, and background checks conducted on prospective drivers of TNC vehicles.

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