Fostering the TNC Revolution

Starship robot: Now legal in Virginia.

It’s always refreshing when Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly play well together. We don’t hear about such instances very often — reporters are drawn to conflict — but I suspect they occur more frequently than we hear about.

An illuminating instance is how legislators from the two parties collaborated to create what Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, calls a “comprehensive legal framework” for Transportation Network Companies (or TNCs) popularized by Uber and Lyft.

Writing in Sunday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, McClellan detailed several bills enacted in the 2017 session with bipartisan input. If signed by the governor, the legislation will accomplish the following:

  • Lower up-front fees. TNCs will have a new option for applying for certificates. Instead of paying the existing up-front fee of $100,000 upon application, businesses can pay a $20 surcharge per record when purchasing driver transcripts. This measure will make it easier for smaller, less capitalized companies.
  • Less red tape for drivers. A requirement will be removed for TNC drivers to register personal vehicles for use as a TNC partner vehicle. State Police can recognize another state’s annual motor vehicle safety inspection in lieu of Virginia’s.
  • Brokering rides. Third-party companies will be allowed to broker TNC rides. This measure responds to a request by Richmond-area startup, UZURV, which piggybacks on Uber and Lyft by allowing passengers to reserve rides with specific drivers.
  • Robot deliveries. London-based Starship Technologies wants to make deliveries in cooler-sized robots, which can travel up to four miles (round trip) and can navigate sidewalks, shared-use paths and crosswalk. These “Electronic Personal Delivery Devices” will become legal.
  • Less red tape for property carriers. Some requirements regarding property carriers and bulk property carriers will be eliminated.

The TNC revolution will prove a fertile field for innovation, and the more Virginia does to loosen regulatory restrictions (within the bounds of protecting public safety and creating a level playing field), the more innovation we will see. Companies like Starship will set up shop in Virginia before investing in states where their service is illegal. Entrepreneurs like UZURV will spring up to build on the Uber revolution. And Virginia consumers will benefit from options they never imagined having before.

Now, if the legislature can just figure out what to do with AirBnB…

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One response to “Fostering the TNC Revolution

  1. one of the “big” significant differences between airbnb and Uber, Lyftt and other ride hailing services is the lack of an “aggregator”.

    For hotels and similar consider Trivago which is not only an aggregator but claims it aggregates a lot more – than it’s competitor aggregators.

    that means that maybe they both show you the same hotel .. but Trivago is claiming to show more total motels than say Kayak is… showing.

    No consider Airbnb – which may have some aggregator competitors but right now – it seems to have more listings.

    Now look at Uber and Lyft and their competitors..

    what app do you use when you want to compare the price and availability of Uber, Lyft and others?

    Otherwise – when demand is high – and you only search for Uber – you don’t know unless you also search for Lyft what the best value is.. and imagine if there were 4 or 5 difference choices and you’re trying to search each one for it’s price and availability.

    That’s why you need an “aggregator” for the ride hailing TNCs.

    I’m not sure where that situation is right now but a while back – both Uber and Lyft refused to provide a would-be aggregator that info to a “3rd party” aggregator.

    Right now, I can find only one on Google Play – Whipster – and it looks fairly new and not sure if Uber allows it’s use – apparently Lyft does

    but the point here is that all these different competing ride hailing services are not really in direct competition with each other – so that it benefits consumers… other there is an aggregator AND the ride hailing apps allow the aggregator to access the real time price and availability data.

    so here’s the question – should Government – FORCE these ride hailing apps make their real time price and availability data – available to aggregator apps?

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