COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Colorado Springs' first Uber driver offered his first ride Sunday as lawmakers prepare to weigh in on regulations for ride-sharing companies.
Colorado's state Senate is scheduled to take a final vote on a bill to regulate app-driven transportation companies like Uber and Lyft.
Uber connects drivers and passengers through a mobile application. Drivers sign in when they are available and customers sign in when they want a ride. Customers can see the location of the nearest driver and receive minute-by-minute updates on their selected driver's arrival time. When the customer has been dropped off, the fare is charged to a credit card the customer has previously synced with the application.
"When a call comes in, it says I have 10 seconds to accept (the customer's request) and then it tells me where the person is," said driver Chip Caruana as he scrolled through the Uber application on his phone.
Caruana is Colorado Springs' first Uber driver. He drives his own car but Uber decides the rate for his passengers.
He signed up to drive in his spare time to earn extra cash. It turns out KRDO NewsChannel 13's ride request was Caruana's first in Colorado Springs.
"I think as more people learn about the app and car sharing services, it will spread to the Springs," said Caruana.
State Senator George Rivera, Pueblo, and State Senator Bernie Herpin, Colorado Springs, are sponsoring a bill to make sure riding-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft stay in business.
Senate Bill 125 will require background checks for drivers and vehicle inspections. It also tackles the insurance problem that's at the center of debate between ride-sharing company enthusiasts and Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
There is some gray area when it comes to insurance. Under Senate Bill 125, drivers would be covered under their personal car insurance until they accept a customer through the application. Once a driver accepts that customer and is in route to pick them up, the driver is then covered under the ride-sharing company's commercial insurance.
"We want to make sure the drivers are capable, they have a good driving records, they don't have a criminal record," said Rivera. "And again, the insurance is critical so that when someone is out in one of those cars, should the drive make a mistake and run a stop sign, get in a wreck or someone hit them, that they are covered under insurance."
The alternative would require drivers to purchase their own commercial insurance and Herpin said the out-of-pocket costs for that would not make the endeavor profitable for drivers. Herpin and Rivera said a decision must be made on regulating ride-sharing companies or they will be shut down statewide.
Taxi companies and its drivers argue the bill isn't fair. Bob is an independent contractor with Yellow Cab in Colorado Springs. He said Uber and Lyft drivers would be under less strict regulations and he thinks that's wrong.
"What's the sense of having regulations if the state isn't going to protect the regulated cab drivers?" said Bob.
Herpin said there are Republicans and Democrats backing this bill. He said it will likely pass in the Senate. He is not sure how the bill will do in the House of Representatives.