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Austin Is Conducting Sting Operations Against Ride-Sharing Drivers (examiner.com) 258

Since the Uber and Lyft ride-sharing apps stopped service in Austin, drunk driving has increased, riders are hunting for alternatives, and the police are conducting undercover sting operations against unauthorized ride-sharing drivers. With Chicago also considering new restrictions on ride-sharing apps, Slashdot reader MarkWhittington shares this report from Austin: With thousands of drivers and tens of thousands of riders who once depended on ride-sharing services in a lurch, a group called Arcade City has tried to fill the void with a person-to-person site to link up drivers and riders who then negotiate a fare. Of course, according to a story on KVUE, the Austin city government, and the police are on the case. The Austin Police Department has diverted detectives and resources to conduct sting operations on ride-sharing drivers who attempt to operate without official sanction. Undercover operatives will arrange for a ride with an Arcade City driver and then bust them, impounding their vehicle and imposing a fine.
"The first Friday and Saturday after Uber was gone, we were joking that it was like the zombie apocalypse of drunk people," one former ride-sharing driver told Vocative.com. Earlier this month the site compared this year's drunk driving arrests to last years -- and discovered that in the three weeks since Uber and Lyft left Austin, 7.5% more people have been arrested for drunk driving.
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Austin Is Conducting Sting Operations Against Ride-Sharing Drivers

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  • Most of the people in Austin are in favor of Uber and Lyft operating there, right? So I would think that it would be extremely difficult to convict anyone of these "crimes" in a jury trial. Even if the trial were held in a municipal court in Texas, that requires 6 people to all give a "guilty" verdict; if less than half agree with the law then that's less than 1/64 chance of conviction. (And if held in a district court, less than 1/4096 chance of conviction!)
    • by juniorkindergarten ( 662101 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @02:49PM (#52389271)
      Uber and Lyft left Austin because the VOTERS decided in a referendum to demand that they do ground checks based on fingerprints. Uber and Lyft said that what they had was good enough. Lyft and Uber lost badly and they so they left. So, to be clear for you my astroturfing friend, most people VOTED AGAINST LYFT and UBER.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's not exactly the whole story. After the referendum was put on the ballot, Uber and Lyft went nuts with advertising, including direct phone calls of people with Uber and Lyft accounts. Basically, they made themselves so annying that even those who might have supported them were completely pissed off. Then they had to leave to save face after all the effort they made into the vote. That left a vacuum which was filled by many small ride sharing companies.

        As i understand it from hearing about it on radio

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by stephanruby ( 542433 )

        Uber and Lyft left Austin because the VOTERS decided in a referendum to demand that they do ground checks based on fingerprints. Uber and Lyft said that what they had was good enough. Lyft and Uber lost badly and they so they left. So, to be clear for you my astroturfing friend, most people VOTED AGAINST LYFT and UBER.

        I think it's fair to say that most people (over 50%) have never taken Uber or Lyft and were just going by the horror stories they heard on the news. Also, those people voted for more regulations, from a consumer's point of view, more regulations on others can't be that bad. Nobody likes to be regulated, but everyone is willing to regulate others.

        That being said, the suggested regulation went above and beyond requiring fingerprinting the ten fingers and doing an FBI background check (which is what the UberBl

        • true story: I was in Austin last summer. I was having a bad allergic reaction cuz where I was staying was an old house and there was so much dust. Out for drinks with my buddies, and my top lip starts swelling up cuz allergies. long story short, we drink, we drink, and my lip gets so huge it makes me look like a platypus!

          head on home, go to bed, then next AM it is still swollen up! I thought it would subside during the night. so I look up on my phone where the nearest urgent care clinic is, so I could get a

          • Funny, in general you would have been better off in a taxi. They prioritize medical rides, obviously (but lyft does not.) Beyond that, taxi in most places have radios, and can speed in the case of medical emergencies, arranging with the police to avoid being pulled over.

          • Don't you have a 911 ambulance service for that sort of thing? Then you get a medically trained person to monitor you while you go to the hospital, or they might even be able to treat you on the spot.

        • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

          I think it's fair to say that most people (over 50%) have never taken Uber or Lyft and were just going by the horror stories they heard on the news.

          Most people never are never in a serious car accident, either. Should we therefore get rid of requirements for seat belts and liability insurance? Same logic.

      • And nobody (I think?) disputes that the voters have the right to pass (almost any) laws they see fit in their own town.

        What people are saying is that voters should consider unintended consequences. Of course those voters surely wanted the provisions to increase safety. If (big if!) it's true that these provisions actually decreased safety (hey, the world is unpredictable) then those same voters be aware of this outcome.

    • by legRoom ( 4450027 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @03:09PM (#52389377)

      There are a couple of problems with relying on jury nullification:

      1) The average person doesn't know it's an option, and most judges won't let anyone tell them during the case.
      2) One of the key purposes of the modern American jury selection process is to filter out anyone who might think for themselves.

      • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @03:35PM (#52389483)

        At voir dire you must never admit to being an advocate of jury nullification, even though it's a power you have as a juror. If you exercise it in a given trial, always have some interpretation of the evidence and testimony, however strained, to use as an excuse. You have the right to be as tricky as the prosecutor is at interpreting the case.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Megol ( 3135005 )

          Ever think that's because advocates of nullification are generally assholes that want to make trials to be about _them_ for egocentric reasons instead of the actual court case? Really, ranting about jury nullification is commonly associated with such far-out crap like sovereign citizens, tax denialism and other idiotic shit.

          Preaching for something that exists for _extremely_ unusual circumstances for, like, every court case one doesn't like the result of is a good way to destroy this tool for the truly exce

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            I would say that nowadays just about every case is about trampling upon the Bill of Rights which in my humble opinion is exceptional and deserves nullification. The Ballot Box has proven over and over that it doesn't work because people, by and large, have been trained in the public school system that makes them into good little sheeple.

            I'm just your average asshole who's seen the destruction of and government nullification of the people's rights.

          • That's why I don't rant about jury nullification. It's just a power that a juror should be able to, given the appropriate circumstances, exercise.

          • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @08:23PM (#52390565)
            "If a juror feels that the statute involved in any criminal offence is unfair, or that it infringes upon the defendant's natural god-given unalienable or constitutional rights, then it is his duty to affirm that the offending statute is really no law at all and that the violation of it is no crime at all, for no one is bound to obey an unjust law."

            Harlan F. Stone, Chief Justice

          • by geoskd ( 321194 )

            Ever think that's because advocates of nullification are generally assholes that want to make trials to be about _them_ for egocentric reasons instead of the actual court case?

            Every trial should be looked at as an opportunity for Jury Nullification. It is one of the very few opportunities the people have left to have their voice heard in any meaningful way. I think it is appropriate that any group of 12 citizens may nullify a law related to a case they have been asked to hear, and any judge that truly believes in democracy should advise their jurists that this is an option before the start of any trial.

            • by Megol ( 3135005 )

              So what you are really saying is that laws shouldn't exist and only a jury should decide if something is a crime or not?

              That's lynch mob justice.

              • by geoskd ( 321194 )

                So what you are really saying is that laws shouldn't exist and only a jury should decide if something is a crime or not? That's lynch mob justice.

                Thats largely what we have anyways. The illusion that there is something more there has been repeatedly exposed. Laws and governments can't change the fundamental mob justice of the world, only assign more influence to some individuals and less to others.

                The closest any government ever came to perfect justice was the old soviet union where punishment was far more severe and certain, thus deterring crime more effectively. Even there, the system got gamed pretty hard and fast.

                The reality of the matter is tha

        • by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @05:31PM (#52389993)
          Unless you specifically WANT to get out of jury duty, then I suggest you saying something like "I believe in jury nullification and look forward to educating my fellow jury members if chosen for a case."
  • by molarmass192 ( 608071 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @02:42PM (#52389227) Homepage Journal
    "Earlier this month the site compared this year's drunk driving arrests to last years -- and discovered that in the three weeks since Uber and Lyft left Austin, 7.5% more people have been arrested for drunk driving."

    Other than catering to lobbyists for cash, there's nothing that govts enjoy more than "incidental" revenue. Literal "public safety" is somewhere near the bottom of the list, somewhere after "leaving things in better shape for my successor".
    • by rockmuelle ( 575982 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @03:07PM (#52389363)

      "Earlier this month the site compared this year's drunk driving arrests to last years -- and discovered that in the three weeks since Uber and Lyft left Austin, 7.5% more people have been arrested for drunk driving."

      Keep in mind that that was a 6 week sample in absolute terms (not relative to population growth or corrected for any other factors, like more aggressive policing, festivals/events that could have spiked rates, weather, etc - it was just raw year-over-year numbers). It's bad statistics. It's been a bit depressing to watch so many techies (including many of my data science friends who should know better) blindly believe Uber/Lyft's messaging.

      I live in Austin and I'm really sick of the Uber/Lyft propaganda machines. All they're doing is spending their VC money on lobbying and lawyers to mold communities in their image rather than trying to develop a service that actually works with the communities they serve (seriously: they spent $9MM trying to influence a local election. What a waste of some investor's money.) Uber is just a grand VC experiment in seeing how they can run illegal businesses and force laws to change for them. They tried it in health (23andMe, Therenos) and found the FDA to be a formidable opponent and instead went after an unpopular industry (taxis) to develop their playbook. Once they work out the playbook with taxis, they'll go after other regulated industries.

      Remember, Uber and Lyft were not forced out of Austin. They simply left because they didn't want to play by the rules. They could have stayed. What's exciting is that the market is working and a whole new crop of TNCs are evolving in Austin that are willing to work with the community rather than against it.

      And don't get me wrong, I love the idea of TNCs. They're great services, they just need to play by the same rules as everyone else and when those rules don't seem to be right, work with the community to find ones that do (compromise is part of that). Right now, Uber and Lyft are just acting like that spoiled rich kid you knew growing up who was never held accountable for his actions.

      -Chris

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blogagog ( 1223986 )
        "Remember, Uber and Lyft were not forced out of Austin. They simply left because they didn't want to play by the rules."

        To be fair, they left because Austin changed the rules.
        • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @06:29PM (#52390237)

          "Remember, Uber and Lyft were not forced out of Austin. They simply left because they didn't want to play by the rules."

          To be fair, they left because Austin changed the rules.

          To be fair, they left because Austin changed the rules to require background checks like all other professional drivers (taxi drivers, limo drivers, bus drivers, etc.) operating in the city.

          Or, as GP said, "they simply left because they didn't want to play by the rules" (which everybody else does).

        • One, most importantly, the vote was "taxi services have to abide by taxi service rules, even if they're on the internet"

          Two, rules change in a democracy when they no longer work for the people. Rules changing is what busted up Standard Oil and what kept Microsoft from owning the Browser.

          Life may be considered a game, and stable rules are nice, but the stability is just one benefit. If it's worth it, the Supreme Court reverses a decision, or Congress adds a regulation or a referendum passes.

      • They simply left because they didn't want to play by the rules.

        Correct. When people don't like your rules, they leave. Get used to it: it's what happens in a free society.

        when those rules don't seem to be right, work with the community to find ones that do (compromise is part of that)

        Another thing you have to learn is that customers/employees/businesses/companies don't owe you any kind of explanation or opportunity to compromise: if you institute bogus rules, people just walk. Get used to it.

        If you want Ube

        • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

          Correct. When people don't like your rules, they leave. Get used to it: it's what happens in a free society.

          Exactly - don't let the door bruise your ass on the way out, freeloader.

          • Exactly - don't let the door bruise your ass on the way out, freeloader.

            Don't you worry your pretty little head about my ass, worry about your own future.

      • Uber is just a grand VC experiment in seeing how they can run illegal businesses and force laws to change for them

        This used to be true. But I think DraftKings and FanDuel are the new ones pushing the boundary. "One particular law says that maybe our product is only regulated by all other laws, not just this one" --> We're legal !!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by flopsquad ( 3518045 )

      Other than catering to lobbyists for cash, there's nothing that govts enjoy more than "incidental" revenue. Literal "public safety" is somewhere near the bottom of the list, somewhere after "leaving things in better shape for my successor".

      Ding ding ding.

      Many, sometimes conflicting, truths can be simultaneous. For instance, drunk driving is at once dangerous, stupid, something we as a society should work towards preventing, a huge money-making turnstile for local government, over-broadly defined, etc etc.

      I'm not one of those people that goes shouting "market solutions11!!!" at every problem, but rideshare services have done a pretty bangup job reducing drunk driving (both raw statistics-wise, and attitude-wise). The utilitarian pragma

      • It's not just "should they be fingerprinted". Taxi services are fingerprinted. It's "should Austin enforce its laws, when the internet is involved." And, I would definitely say, yes.

        Sometimes principle is of overriding value.

      • Reading your post, I concluded how easy it is to cherry pick one statistic that got better while ignoring everything else that would get worse. Thanks for that.
    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      even if true, a 7.5% increase is not "drunk driver apocalypse". Unless uber made people drink more, at best the stats should revert to pre-uber numbers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 25, 2016 @02:45PM (#52389245)

    It's nothing to joke about. And trying to blame a lack of taxis for commiting a crime is really pathetic.

    • It's nothing to joke about. And trying to blame a lack of taxis for committing a crime is really pathetic.

      No one is blaming a lack of taxis or saying that the scumbags that drive drunk are not ethically reprehensible. What we are saying is that people are marginally shitty and if you make it marginally-harder for them to do the right thing then marginally fewer will do the right thing. That's not a moral statement, it's an empirical one.

      That's not an argument anyone accused of drunk driving should be able to raise a defense, but it is certainly an argument to present to a legislative authority debating whether

  • Set up a "sting" on the cops.

    There are thousands of drivers and riders, right? This is Texas where there are a large number of firearm owners, right?

    Shouldn't be any trouble to surround the cops with thousands while video/audio recording and then decide, based on the police reaction, to just loudly protest or to forcibly disarm them and place them under citizen's arrest. There is power in numbers. When the government itself fails to follow the Rule of Law when it comes to the powerful and 'connected', force

    • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
      you just got added to like 7 lists.
      • you just got added to like 7 lists.

        Pfft!

        I've probably been on just about every 'list' they have for decades, now. Screw the authoritarian bastages.

        The fear is what they want. I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer, the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

        Strat

  • This summary is BS. (Score:5, Informative)

    by grag ( 597728 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @03:14PM (#52389405)
    I live in Austin and many smaller TNCs have moved into the city to fill the market need, and these TNCs are willing to comply with the city ordinances.
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @03:14PM (#52389409)
    Build and fund a proper public transportation system.
  • by mattwarden ( 699984 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @03:37PM (#52389495)

    First, I am violently against the idiotic regulations passed by our city council that pushed Uber and Lyft our. But that does not justify bullshit statistics. This 7.5% increase stat is repeated by everyone and its total

      It compares number of absolute arrests to same period last year. It does not account for increased population in a rapidly growing area. It does not consider APD force size. It does not consider APD enforcement priorities. It does not consider APD coverage densities downtown vs elsewhere. I could go on.

    Enough already. There are plenty of actual facts and actual logic to show how stupid the TNC licensure measures are. We don't need to make shit up and rely on the fact that 90% of Americans failed stats101.

    • or that Uber was required to comply with them. Not trolling, I'm really curious. As for me, I like the idea of the checks given that a driver alone in a car with someone (like my 18 year old daughter) has a lot of power in that situation. It doesn't help that Uber's model of relying on (preying?) folks in need of some extra cash mean their drivers are virtually guaranteed to have a higher than average number of ex-cons.

      Then again I recognize that it's unfair to perpetually punish someone. Would you be i
      • or that Uber was required to comply with them.

        It should be up to Uber and their customers: if customers demand background checks, the Uber will institute them. If not, then there is no need for the city to require them.

        Uber could allow the background checks (to weed out potentially dangerous people) while giving folks who've proven they're no longer a threat to society a real second chance.That would solve two problems.

        And what magic technology would provide this infallible pre-crime analysis?

    • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

      First, I am violently against the idiotic regulations passed by our city council that pushed Uber and Lyft our.

      No. What's idiotic is treating a hey-we're-not-a-taxi-company, taxi company as a legitimate business.

      • What's idiotic is that people like you pretend to stand up for the little guy, while embracing policies that serve crony capitalists and the wealthy.

        • You're saying that defending the little guy should involve defending a company that purposefully flouts laws that were put there for public safety, pays drivers a pittance while sitting on boat loads of cash, doesn't mind if they aren't properly insured, and has been up front about wanting to go with automation asap. Not following that logic. The taxi companies are the lesser evil here.
        • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

          What's idiotic is that people like you pretend to stand up for the little guy, while embracing policies that serve crony capitalists and the wealthy.

          The corny capitalists are Uber and Lyft, idiot. The "little guy" is the Uber driver who makes less than minimum wage after costs. The "little guy" is the poor shlub passenger stuck with the drivers $25,000 in medial coverage, after an uninsured drunk causes a crash. The "little guy" is the disabled person (from the drunk driver) who's been left shit outta lu

    • I'm just having trouble why the same people who argue that people should be personally responsible for themselves are now arguing FOR Uber because it seems to protect people from themselves. I personally think governments should protect people to a certain extent, but if you're out at a bar and haven't planned how you're getting home at 2am then you should be on your own.
  • weird that people only trust Lyft and Uber.

    • Taxis are artificially expensive, and generally as slow as they want to be. Particularly when legislation has driven competition out and they have no reason to be timely or reasonably priced.

      Myself, I don't trust taxis, because the last time I did, I waited an hour for one at 2 AM, and when the one assigned to me showed up on tracking in the parking lot, it passed me by to pick up a bigger fare. The app then said that I had been picked up. When I tried to get another cab, the dispatcher called me, cursed m

    • by Pulzar ( 81031 )

      For all practical purposes, we don't. The only time I ever needed one, I had to make a 30 minute walk to the nearest hotel, which was the only place they were willing to come to.

  • I thought that was a popular meme around here?

  • Ride sharing example (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EzInKy ( 115248 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @05:04PM (#52389877)

    "Hey Ez, where you headed?" my neighbor asks.
    "Up to the store to get a few things" I yell back.
    "Mind if I ride along? I need some stuff too."
    "Sure, hop on in" I tell her.
    "Thanks! Here's a five for gas." she says as she climbs into my car.

    Uber, Lyft, and the like don't "share" rides, they are taxi services.

  • If people were drunk driving without calling a taxi, I'd throw the book at them too if I was a judge.

    If they want their Uber and Lyft back, maybe they should encourage those companies to buy proper taxi licenses.

  • So much for all that Big Texas "Freedom".

  • Are young people so fucking cool and hip that calling a fucking taxi is seen as passé? Seriously?

    We get it uber is cooler and easier or some other bullshit, ok fine, you prefer it but hey TAXIS STILL EXIST?
    WTF

    • by Pulzar ( 81031 )

      Are young people so fucking cool and hip that calling a fucking taxi is seen as passÃf©? Seriously?

      No, it's just that there aren't any. There's too few of them in late hours, unpopular locations, destinations, etc...

      It's not the coolness factor, it's the convenience and reliability, and, well, cost, too. You need a ride, you have a reasonably priced one in 10-15 minutes, in almost any part of the town.

  • by gwgwgw ( 415150 ) * <g@cjwyche.org> on Saturday June 25, 2016 @09:05PM (#52390699) Homepage

    Believe me, Uber & Lyft made a statement by leaving months before the deadline for compliance. They were well aware that they would disrupt many of their employees (one of whom I know) and, as pointed out in the article, left drunks without a plan.

    Uber & Lyft have been roundly criticized for this "I taking my marbles and going home!" tactic.

    • left drunks without a plan

      So people don't have to be responsible for themselves now? There is no claw that will pick a drunk up at the bar and drop them safely in bed so what else can they do but drive home drunk? HOW ABOUT NOT DRINK.

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