It seems that just about every American city has its own special relationship with the big ridesharing companies, Uber and Lyft. Austin, Texas might be among the most interesting. That’s because, right now, it has no relationship with either company; the companies both left town after a ballot proposition sponsored by them failed. Now , as recounted in a lengthy piece in Curbed, the term “wild west” is being used because a number of smaller ridesharing companies have popped up to fill the void, and some of the cars reportedly carry stickers for several of these at a time.
As you might imagine, there are some pluses and minuses associated with the situation. Riders are often paying lower costs than they would have with the ridesharing giants, and many of the drivers say they prefer their new bosses because of better wages and other benefits.
One issue, however, the article does not address is the matter of liability. As billion dollar national companies, Uber and Lyft are able to provide roughly $1 million in liability and in uninsured and underinsured driver coverage for their drivers while they are on the job. This can benefit both victims of accidents where rideshare drivers are at fault, but also drivers who are involved in collisions where another driver is legally responsible. It also means, of course, that passengers who are injured in accidents where either driver is at fault may be able to obtain higher amounts of compensation than might otherwise be possible.
This also means that smaller companies may not be able to afford large amounts of insurance coverage and, with fewer assets, they may also be less motivated to. Here in California, where Uber and Lyft completely dominate the market, it might be an academic question. But in Austin, Texas at least, it seems likely that personal injury victims might not be among the beneficiaries of the city’s wild west ridesharing culture.