Innovation creates waves. These waves have lifted our economy and quality of life, creating jobs and opportunities. They can also rock the boat, challenging entrenched industries and ways of doing things.
So it is with ridesharing. Innovative companies like Uber, Lyft and others haverevolutionized the way Americans get around and earn money.
Now, the North Carolina General Assembly is looking into if and how to regulate ridesharing. A bill under consideration has put forth a set of state-wide standards. From my experience, I believe this is the right approach. A thriving business sector would be in limbo if nothing is done.
Ridesharing companies are innovating in a somewhat status quo industry. Uber, for example, is a technology company that developed an app to connect consumers who want to go somewhere with drivers who want to use their cars to generate income.
Consumers report a high rate of satisfaction and drivers value the flexibility to earn money on their own time.
With ridesharing innovation off and running, and laws passed in over two dozen states, the three key elements of the legislation boil down to safety, fairness and certainty. Consumer safetyis a top priority. Uber backs rides with a substantial commercial liability insurance policy. All drivers undergo a screening process and ongoing quality controls such as driver ratings.
Fairness is also appropriate for discussion. It is not up to the government to pick business winners and losers. The government should recognize when technology gives rise to new ventures that deserve a fair hearing based on their individual business models.
Certainty is the final important piece. A business’ ability to grow and meet increasing demand depends on understanding the rules. Inconsistent, unclear rules stifle innovation and growth. And consumers benefit from consistently knowing what they’re getting.
A policy that takes all of these considerations into account will also be good for economic development. Uber, which serves more than a dozen communities around North Carolina, reports that its drivers have provided more than two million rides, generating about $20 million in earnings. That’s innovation putting money in hard working North Carolinians’ pockets.
Perhaps as importantly, innovation is now part of the North Carolina’s brand, reflecting the can-do character, inventive spirit and welcoming nature of the statewhere everything is possible. Creating a framework for innovation is simply backing up North Carolina’s promise.
Innovation, competition and reasonable regulation are good for North Carolina’s economy and its people. I encourage the General Assembly to continue welcoming new ideas and creating a framework for the success of entrepreneurs throughout the state.
Terry Thorson Cox of Charlotte is the president and CEO of Business Innovation & Growth Council (BIG).