It seems so obvious now. But 25 years ago there was a lot of uncertainty about an idea of mine to create a catalog that would introduce millions of airline passengers with loads of downtime to quirky, unique products they didn’t know they needed (or, in some cases, didn’t know existed).
That simple idea grew into a sensation called SkyMall, the nation’s largest in-flight catalog company with shopping services in seatbacks now available to 95 percent of all domestic airline passengers annually.
Over time, SkyMall had to evolve. Technology changed. The Internet forced us to overhaul our business model in order to survive, and SkyMall now does more than half its business via skymall.com.
This is the history of American business. Entrepreneurs innovate. Consumers respond. And new services and entire industries emerge. The public is almost always the beneficiary of this kind of disruptive innovation.
So, it has been interesting to watch the gnashing of teeth at the Arizona State Capitol as ridesharing companies like uberX and Lyft give the traditional ride-for-hire industry a bumpy ride. Once again, technology is leading this change – connecting passengers and drivers via a downloadable mobile app. Rides are requested and drivers are rated with the push of a button, and transactions are cashless and cardless.
It is exactly this kind of on-demand, at-your-fingertips convenience that is becoming second-nature to growing numbers of Americans. Ridesharing opponents have called it many things. I call it progress.
Now, the question for Arizona is how we intend to manage this new part-time industry. I think HB2262 strikes the right balance – establishing minimum requirements for insurance, driver background checks, vehicle inspections and other safeguards to protect the public. Imagine requesting a ride and being instantly provided the driver’s name, picture and ratings from previous interactions – and the driver having the same information about you as a passenger. No taxi company in history has had that level of full disclosure for driver and passenger peace of mind.
Traditional ride-for-hire industry members are afraid of this disruptive innovation. They are hiding behind their last hope: “lack of adequate insurance.”
I can respect some of the arguments made by ridesharing foes in the insurance industry. They worry about gaps in coverage for ridesharing drivers. But I’m comfortable with the insurance uberX and Lyft are providing, including $1 million excess liability policies over and above drivers’ private insurance. As ridesharing becomes more established, I’m also confident the competitive insurance marketplace will respond with creative policies appropriately priced for motorists engaging in a very part-time commercial activity.
For goodness sakes, as lawmakers we’ve spent part of this session debating legislation involving insurance for people traveling into space. Surely we can all figure out how to cost-effectively insure ridesharing.
States and municipalities all over the country are wrestling with some of these same issues. Arizona has a golden opportunity to lay down a marker that says we support innovation and we stand with entrepreneurs and the consumers they serve.
That’s why I support HB2262, and urge my colleagues and Governor Brewer to do the same.
- Bob Worsley, a Republican from Mesa, represents District 25 in the Arizona Senate.