For the time being at least, driving is almost a requirement to living in Houston, which ranks in the top ten largest cities in the United States in terms of area. With Houston covering just less than 680 square miles, it is often necessary to call a taxi, as walking around this massive city is just not feasible. Some of the trendiest new apps available today assists individuals with just that: Uber and Lyft. Uber Technologies Inc. is a San Francisco based company that is rapidly expanding. Dallas is currently the only city in Texas offering the service. But Uber is committed to bringing their services to the Houston area.
The app works by connecting Uber approved drivers (which come in a variety of guises) with customers who have downloaded the app to their smart phone. Lyft works similarly. Once the app is downloaded you will be put in touch with a drive, simply give the drive your location and credit card number and you are ready to go. While Uber insists that it has many upsides, such as reducing the amount of traffic on Houston roads, easy transportations to and from work or a hotel, or even arriving home safely from a night out on the town, the Houston City Council has yet to approve the operation of Uber in Houston. The City Council is set to vote on the use of the app on July 30, 2014.
Taxi companies in Houston are have leveled opposition to Uber and Lyft. They argue that Uber and Lyft drivers lack the capacity to pick up disabled customers, the training that taxi drivers possess, and may be uninsured. This latter two issues are of concern to anyone who does decide to ride with an Uber or Lyft drivers. Safety should be the top priority not only for the customer. But there have been some troubling developments of late. Earlier this month, for example, Los Angeles police arrested a man who drove for Uber in connection with the rape of a 26-year-old woman. And in connection with insurance, various states have begun investigating insurance related issues that arise out of the apps. For example, while insurance may be provided to the passenger during a trip, it has not always been the case that the apps provided insurance for the driver’s vehicle while it was in route to pick up the passenger.
There is much uncertainty both with respect to safety and to insurance issues. It is important that as a consumer you understand that your safety should take priority over a company’s desire to make a profit.