Just a few days before city council is set to vote on transportation network companies (TNCs) like UberX and Lyft, both the traditional cab companies and the TNCs are scurrying to get their houses in order.
This morning, Uber posted to their blog an explanation of improvements to their insurance policies, which would help close a gap that could leave both drivers and riders in a safety lurch.
In order to fully address any ambiguity or uncertainty around insurance coverage for ridesharing services, Uber is becoming the first and only company to have a policy in place that expands the insurance of ridesharing drivers to cover any potential “insurance gap” for accidents that occur while drivers are not providing transportation service for hire but are logged onto the Uber network and available to accept a ride...
Starting today, if a driver’s personal insurance policy is found not to cover an accident during this period, this new policy will provide contingent coverage for a driver’s liability at the highest requirement of any state in the U.S.
Basically, Uber explains, UberX drivers are insured by their personal auto insurance when driving around without a fare, but switch over to Uber's insurance as soon as they accept a trip and come to pick you up. And if, in the event of an accident, their personal insurance can't cover it, Uber's will.
Of course, this doesn't address one of the central issues with how TNCs are currently operating—which is that picking up passengers without a city-issued license appears to be a technical violation of city law—but it does help clarify one of the major concerns raised since a six-year-old girl was killed in San Francisco on New Year's Eve. The driver at the time did not have a fare with him, and thus, was not insured by Uber.
Let's not get it twisted, though: This is as much a cover-their-own-ass move as it is a please-the-city-of-Seattle move. And it comes at a time when other cities are also raising an eyebrow at Uber and its kin.
The traditional cab companies are also trying to gussy themselves up in the days leading up to the city council vote; earlier this week, Puget Sound Dispatch announced that they'd be launching a new app in Seattle—it already exists in other cities—which is essentially the same as Uber's digital dispatching system.
City council will vote Monday on the fate of cabs and TNCs.