SideCar challenges cease and desist orders in court
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The San Francisco-based company behind the app SideCar is taking the City of Austin to court over a pair of orders ordering them to stop doing business.
City leaders believe that SideCar is a taxi cab service in disguise, but SideCar officials say that city laws which regulate the local taxi industry don’t apply to them.
"The laws are really catching up with the technology," Nick Allen, co-founder of SideCar, said.
Allen said his app challenges the city’s notion that it is a taxi or chauffeur service on several fronts. A 32-page lawsuit filed by SideCar against the City of Austin claims the app acts like a carpool assistant—connecting SideCar-authorized drivers with people looking for a ride.
"This is a technology platform that connects people, just like Craigslist, eBay or any of the others,” Allen said. “We will continue to defend that stance."
But the fight to fit in is not unique to Austin. Last month in Philadelphia, the city cited SideCar drivers and impounded their vehicles. While they continue to operate in its hometown of San Francisco, California's Public Utility Commission is still trying to figure out just where the new service fits.
The Austin Transportation Department sees Side Car no different than a taxi cab company. Whether they call it a donation or a fee, drivers are accepting money.
"Charge them for it or accept a donation for it, you must do certain things,” Gordon Derr with the Austin Transportation Department said. “You must have an operating authority or a franchise with the city."
In fact, one of Austin's franchised cab companies uses an app very similar to SideCar's.
"The request for service is going to a chauffeur driver who has been permitted by the City of Austin," Ed Kargbo with Yellow Cab of Austin said.
The running theme from Austin to the coasts—east and west—is for government to keep up with the fast-paced proliferation of progressive enterprises.
Regardless of the legal battles, Allen says SideCar will continue to pay drivers during South by Southwest to be what it calls brand ambassadors—awaiting action from a judge to see if SideCar is sidelined for good.
SideCar leaders say they are expanding to three cities on this week.