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PUC peppers Uber, Lyft with questions about serving every neighborhood, not just some

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Aug 28, 2014 12:56 PM
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(Harrisburg) -- Two prominent ride-sharing companies are facing a battery of hearings in their effort to obtain permanent licenses to operate in Pennsylvania, and at one today, questioning took a unexpected turn.

State Public Utility Commissioners asked representatives from Uber and Lyft, plus two other lesser-known apps, the usual questions about background checks for drivers, car inspections, and personal injury insurance.

But toward the end of the 90-minute session, they raised the issue of how the ride-sharing companies will make sure drivers serve all neighborhoods, not just the desirable ones.

Some are concerned without close monitoring, drivers, who are independent contractors and not employees, will refuse to take ride requests in areas that can be dangerous.

"These are independent contractors so we can't require them to pick anybody up. But what we do, is we go through all of our data, and when we start to see unusual patterns repeat refusals to accept a ride, or cancellations or things such as that then we will investigate those," says Nick Zabriskie, a public policy associate at Uber.

Katie Kincaid with Lyft says the requests cycle through all its drivers.

"So if there is somebody who is continuously cancelling and maybe from certain request and certain areas, that can be noted and action can be taken."

The PUC has given temporary approval for both Uber and Lyft to operate in the Pittsburgh area, but the companies have also applied for permanent licenses statewide.

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