Uber wins: State clears road for online-based livery service

The state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, which oversees the now infamous standards division, said today the division will issue an operating certificate to Uber now that it has learned a national standards body is evaluating GPS-based metering systems like the one Uber uses.

The office's statement came just a couple of hours after Gov. Patrick's spokesman vowed to get Uber back in the state's good graces, a couple weeks after the division had ruled Uber's GPS system illegal - following a sting operation set up by the city of Cambridge.

In two tweets this afternoon, Patrick spokesman Brendan Ryan said the governor would get Uber clearance:

With all @massgovernor has done for the innovation economy, we're not shutting down @uber_bos. Working on a swift resolution.

full disclosure: @uber_bos very popular in @massgovernor office. i used it last night to get home from springsteen.

Update on the new statement via TechCrunch.

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Good to hear

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Now how about returning liquor licenses to the city, allowing more, and doing something about MBTA funding and the antiquated medallion system?

That would require due

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That would require due process and a absence of cronyism and favoritism.

We make due

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with what we got, not what we want. As much as we bitch about things here, it could be worse. We could be Jersey or Texas...

Anyways, I know, too much to ask. Baby steps!

What would happen if...

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What would happen if Uber tried this promotion in Mass?

Alcohol + Taxis + Loud Music = ????

To celebrate Lollapalooza weekend, Uber is prepping our LOUDest promotion yet, the ability to request a DJ from the Uber app.

On Thursday night, simply tap the headphones in the Uber app to cruise an Uber party bus equipped with a Live DJ, booze and room for up to 10 friends. Sorry in advance if your pregame is the highlight of your night :) .

The Details:

Find the headphones in your Uber app and Join the Party by Requesting a Bus!
Travel up to five miles or 25 minutes, whatever comes first.
We’ll auto-charge your credit card $50 for the ride
Requester and all party guests must be aged 21+

http://blog.uber.com/2012/07/31/uberpalooza2012/

I am pleased to read that the

I am pleased to read that the state might defy my expectations and actually be responsive rather than my expected prediction that Uber will go down into flames as it withdraws from Mass with the state giving out a response "We are working on this issue with all parties to provide the best outcome." Which leads nothing happening to the benefit of taxis until it finally happens because nearly every other city have implemented it 5-8 years later.

But now that the governor have weighed in. I have to ask Kaz now if you have reconsidered your stance at all. Keep in mind that this positive outcome may only be possible because his aides are Uber users who have the governor's ear.

My stance was fulfilled

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Did you read the latest statement from the Governor's office? The division of standards said it couldn't allow he GPS meters until NIST could validate them. The Governor found out that the NIST is currently in process of validating them. Problem solved, the Governor told the Division to stand down in light of this new revelation.

That's all I was advocating was to follow the law. What would I have to reconsider? I got my way.

The counter arguments and

The counter arguments and anger was based on that the law is suppose to be there to protect us and when the results seems to be harmful - such as stiffing competition in the name of our consumer protection, then I think it is understandable to be displeased.

The given justification for state involvement with regulation of taxis justify to protect us from cheating meters and ensure a minimum bar of service. Specifically, the meters needs state involvement because it is difficult for us individually to verify the integrity of meter boxes and thus we turn to a party to do the testing for us - in this case the state.

However, Uber seems to already carry a reputation of quality and transparency. We can already see the route on a map, we can verify the distance easily, we can see the name of the driver - basically able to validate their integrity without the state involvement.

But, you chimed in saying we need the state to regulate this and the state is justified its actions. I and seemingly the other posters disagree.

If you look back at your previous statements. You were more than advocating that the state needs to follow its laws. You were not only arguing from your posts that the "since the law exists, the state have no choice but to follow it even to companies that seem to be providing a net good." But you were repeatedly arguing that the state involvement is justified and reasonable. You question the reliability of GPS systems in an age we trust GPS all over the place. You compared it to higher stakes issues of medicine. You draw a parallel where other commentators pointed that that GPS has no equivalent to mice and fridges hidden from us to review. You were arguing more than just following the law, you were arguing the state is right. You are arguing that despite transparency and service (as noted above) that seems to nullify the need for state involvement we can check ourselves unlike taxi meters, we still need the state.

Adding that the results of state involvement with taxis still leaves us with an overly expensive system and crappy service with common citation that the medallion system being a root cause, it is hard to see the good can be created to justify state involvement.

Do you really believe the division of standards would have been so swift in finding NIST is in process so Uber is good to go if the governor didn't got involve to announce he will do something? Do you think it is ideal that the governor have to get involved to make things right?

That's what I ask you to reconsider here. Not the law should be ignored or not. Nobody is going into that territory. But is the state is right given the justification for state involvement is for our protection. However, as many argue in from many different directions, what wrong is there to protect us from?

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Also I should point a different legal perspective. Now making a argument about the law itself. Getting from that reading in the past, we are talking about there there is "no regulation", not "regulation saying we not allow to use GPS" or "regulation that says we are only allowed to use meters." This is an area of legal debate here of the spirit versus the letter of the law. In this case, much anger can be found that the state is not following the spirit (as my writing above can be seen as argument to the spirit if the state is justified), but also the letter as only following the letter - where does it grant the power to call things to be illegal for areas of no regulation. My understanding is actions are legal until it is defined to be not legal - not the other way around. So even following the law itself, there's ground for people to be displeased.

Why?

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It's he. And why? I was not and never said I was against Uber operating. I wanted them to follow the law. That's what is happening. I got what I wanted.

Do you usually expect people who get their way to slit their wrists?

I don't know why you think I didn't want Uber to be able to operate. I'm pretty sure in one of my posts earlier today I said exactly the opposite of that.

But...

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Ăśber is only obeying the law because the Commonwealth came to its senses and conveniently back tracked on its decision. In exactly what world are you living in that you don't understand that?

The real world

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The state didn't back track on anything. The division that told Uber to stop operations said "until NIST can tell us how to validate your meter, you can't operate". The governor's office talked to NIST and said, "the NIST is working on your meter, in the meantime, operate". That's not contradictory, in fact, it follows. If the Governor had checked the NIST and heard it has no intention to validate their particular hardware but said "operate anyways", then you might have a point...but that's not what happened.

You shouldn't feel the need to make up what happened just to fit some narrative that makes the state out to be jerks and makes you want me to kill myself.

I don't think this clears the road for them in Cambridge

Cambridge issued two citations during their sting operation. One was for using a measuring device not conforming to standards. That's the one that's been discussed and that Uber doesn't have to worry about anymore.

The second citation was for operating an unlicensed livery service. I think the citation was issued directly to the driver, not to Uber, since the driver (like all Uber's drivers, I believe) is an independent contractor and not an employee of Uber.

Cambridge has the authority under state law to regulate the operation of taxi and livery services within the city. Like Boston, Cambridge regulates taxis. But unlike Boston, Cambridge also chooses to regulate livery (limo/private car) services. Anyone who wants to pick up passengers in Cambridge needs to be licensed. So the implication is that any of Uber's drivers who wants to do pickups in Cambridge needs to go before the Cambridge License Commission and get a livery license. Oh wait... instead of quoting flat rates ahead of time, you want to use a metering device (GPS) to charge by the mile? No livery license for you! You'll need a taxi license. That means go to taxi school, pass the course, get a medallion, etc.

Good luck Uber, you're going to need it.

So I've been operating illegally all these years?

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I pick up in Cambridge all the time and I've never been told once I need a Cambridge issued license. There is no license needed in this state to open a livery company. If you want to pick up at Logan, you only need a letter from the town clerk where your car is garaged saying you are authorized by that town to garage your vehicle there.

That's it.

Maybe

IANAL so all I can do is cite the info I found a few years ago when I was pondering doing something similar to what Uber is doing.

There is state law, but it mostly delegates authority to the cities and towns. See MGL 40, section 22.

Cambridge Municipal Code chapter 5.20 deals with taxi and livery service. It requires that pickups be "based on a contract prearranged significantly prior to the time of the pickup." Based on transcripts of past Cambridge License Commission hearings, they consider "significantly prior" to be several hours, not several minutes. When Uber customers create their accounts, I assume they agree to some sort of terms and conditions, and that could perhaps be considered a blanket prearranged contract for any future pickups, but again IANAL.

Perhaps one of the goals of this rule is to prevent people from hailing a livery car right off the street, having the driver wink, drive past them and go around the block a couple times, and then pick them up and claim it's prearranged.

So I can't call a car service

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So I can't call a car service and ask, "Can I get a car from Harvard Square to the airport 15 minutes from now?" That's ridiculous.