RI Cab Companies File For Cease And Desist Against Uber

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Newport’s Orange Cab and Warwick’s Airport Taxi file lawsuit against the company and its drivers.

Declaring Uber to be a “massive illegal operation”, two Rhode Island cab companies have gone to court to get the web company’s operation shut down in the Ocean State. The Providence Journal reports:

In an Aug. 13 lawsuit filed in Providence County Superior Court, Orange Cab of Newport and Airport Taxi of Warwick seek a cease and desist order against San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc., its wholly-owned subsidiary Rasier LLC and the undisclosed number of drivers that use the company’s app throughout the state.

And the lawsuit also names the state’s top utilities regulators in the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers as defendants for failing to stop Uber from doing business in Rhode Island, asking the court to compel Rhode Island officials to do so.

Echoing a larger global fight over ride-hailing services, the taxis argue that under Rhode Island law any driver or company providing for-hire automobile rides must comply with the stringent regulations enforced by the Public Utilities Division.

Given that RI regulators have long agreed that Uber and Lyft’s business models violate state law, the lawsuit has merit. Unfortunately, much like the lawsuit that got Napster shut down in July 2001, it’s trying to punch a rising technological tide.

As we’ve commented previously, Uber’s goal isn’t to beat taxi companies with its own drivers. Uber’s goal is to eliminate all paid drivers with self-driving cars. Carnegie Mellon University has been the biggest developer in the field of self-driving cars for a quarter-century and a earlier this year, Uber poached half of their entire department.

There are plenty of theoretical advantages to self-driving cars over human-operated ones. They don’t need sleep. They don’t have families. They don’t mind migrating to and from different parts of the country to deal with seasonal demand.

Local taxi companies have a few years left, as companies like Uber and Google clear the technological and legal hurdles to get self-driving cars on the country’s streets en masse. During that time, we can expect Uber to face many lawsuits…but as a company currently valued at $50 billion, it has pockets deep enough for some rigorous legal self-defense.

“While we can’t comment on active litigation, I can say we will vigorously defend the rights of our riders and driver partners to greater choice and economic opportunity,” said Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett in an email statement to the Journal Sunday.

On the other legislative end, Rep. John G. Edwards, D-Tiverton, is trying to re-introduce a bill that would create a new regulatory framework for “transportation network companies”, but that can’t happen until 2015, because Rhode Island needs to reinforce the maxim that the legal system has to remain light years behind everyday technology.

-Tristan Pinnock, Blast Rideshare Correspondent

Tristan's just this guy, ya know?