Ridesharing apps are not only different from traditional cab companies, but many tech companies, too. This means that they are often difficult to regulate under existing laws. Governments around the world are starting to roll out guidelines, however, that specifically address the business models of companies like Uber. Earlier this week, China’s government posted draft regulations that may force ridesharing apps to operate more like taxi fleets, and now India has proposed its own set of legal guidelines.
Published on the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways’ site, the guidelines call for all cars run by ridesharing apps like Uber and Ola to have emergency buttons, in addition to in-app features to call police. Companies also have to operate more like traditional taxi fleets, within-depth criminal background checks on all potential drivers, 24/7 call centers, branded vehicles, and a meter that tracks distance traveled and the passenger’s fee.
Uber and Ola implemented background checks and introduced privacy and in-app safety features after the rape of a female passenger by an Uber driver.Despite those measures, both companies continue to face backlash in the form of police investigation and bans in the state of Delhi, where the assault happened.
For example, last month Delhi’s government rejected Uber’s application to operate cars there, though a company spokesperson said at the time that it hadn’t received any official notification.
While Uber, Ola, and TaxiForSure (which was acquired by Ola in March) have each had applications for radio taxi licenses rejected over the past year, they’ve been able to get around some of those roadblocks by operating as digital aggregators similar to an online marketplace like Amazon.
Making sure they follow legal guidelines is important for ridesharing apps, however, as they continue to expand in what is already one of the world’s largest markets for their services. For example, Uber said this summer that India is now its second largest market and will likely eventually overtake its U.S. operations.
While the new guidelines aren’t laws—which means states do not have to follow them, according to the Financial Times—they may help both ridesharing companies and local governments by reducing confusion.
In a statement, a Ola representative said:
We welcome the advisory from the Ministry of Road Transport and we believe this is a major step towards positively impacting the ecosystem and its stakeholders, that technology platforms like ours have created. We will continue to work with the government, under the aegis of this progressive directive, offering our complete support and commitment towards building mobility for a billion people.
TechCrunch has also contacted Uber
and will update this post when we hear back from them. In a statement to the press, Uber India president Amit Jain said:
The guidelines are a significant step in the right direction. They rightfully distinguish between taxi operators and technology platforms, and lay down sector specific regulations for our industry. We applaud the MoRT&H for holding a stakeholder consultation to develop these guidelines and are pleased to have participated in this process.