It triggers wholesale change. Topples industries. And can even revolutionize the way we live and work.
Disruptive innovation often isn’t pretty. Perhaps you’re reading this column online. As we all know, the Internet turned the newspaper industry upside down. Unable to adapt quickly enough, many newspapers folded. But those that survived are providing information across multiple formats, and readers in general are benefitting from a world of new, online content, including blogs, e-publications and social media.
This same story has played out countless times across every industry. But when the Internet threatened the newspaper business model, did these publications lobby legislators for protection? Did Blockbuster video run to government regulators in order to keep Netflix at bay?
Of course, the answer in both cases is “no.” Likewise, now that app-based ridesharing technology in the hands of companies like uberX and Lyft is helping change the way people get around, state policymakers should take a measured regulatory approach. Let’s not kill this new industry – and the jobs that go with it – before it even gets established.
Ridesharing technology is the essence of disruptive innovation. It works like this: Users of uberX or Lyft install an online app on their smartphone, allowing them to request a ride from a background-checked, authorized driver. Before stepping foot into the vehicle, passengers can request a cost estimate for the trip, and are told the identity of their driver, as well as the make/model and license plate number of the vehicle.
The service is convenient, cashless and cardless. And it is proving wildly popular for the hundreds of drivers and thousands of passengers who’ve used the service across metro Phoenix and Tucson. With the right steps by legislators and state government, this new industry will continue to thrive and spread to communities statewide.
That’s why this is such a critical moment. State Rep. Tom Forese, R-Chandler, has proposed common sense legislation that would bring Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as uberX and Lyft under state oversight. This measure would update antiquated statutes that were enacted long before the advent of this new technology, and would codify reasonable safeguards such as company-backed insurance to protect the driver, passengers and public; comprehensive background checks for drivers; and vehicle inspections.
Failure of this legislation would leave our state’s ridesharing industry in limbo, deal a setback to Arizona’s tech reputation and threaten a growing number of uberX and Lyft drivers who’ve been empowered by this technology to launch their own businesses.
Passage, on the other hand, would demonstrate that Arizona remains a place where innovation, entrepreneurship and public safety are not mutually exclusive. Imagine the powerful signal that would send to the inventors of future technologies that will improve our lives in ways we can’t yet imagine.
Uber and Lyft alone are operating worldwide and in more than 40 domestic markets. By passing this legislation Arizona can be a leader in this movement, enacting reasonable regulation that protects the public while making way for technology changing the face of transportation.
On behalf of the Arizona Technology Council and its 750 member companies across Arizona, I urge legislators and state officials not to let this opportunity pass us by.
– Steven G. Zylstra is the President and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council, the state’s largest science and technology organization, representing 750 private-sector, government, academic and non-profit entities.