Amid the fiery debate and intense back-and-forth about ride-hailing apps in Austin, Mayor Steve Adler has stepped in with what he sees as a solution. On Monday, he released the details of a new plan called, Thumbs Up Austin, a compromise between those calling for mandatory fingerprint-based background checks and those advocating for none at all.
As he envisions it, a third-party nonprofit or business would create a “Thumbs Up” badge, verifying which Uber/Lyft/Get Me drivers had passed a voluntary fingerprint-based background check. Ride-hailing app users would then be able to make a decision on which driver to select, based on whether or not they had this “Thumbs Up” badge. Mayor Adler has even tossed around the idea of providing extra incentives to drivers with this badge, like prime pickup spots during SXSW or at the airport.
The innovative aspect of this program is that it could apply to a whole host of sharing economy app services, from Uber and Lyft to Airbnb. If it works, this badge could be the first of its kind in the world, and help out a lot of other city governments who are grappling with similar issues.
“Austin should be the birthplace for a new way for government to meet its responsibilities in this new sharing economy. Austin is a great city filled with creative people. We must develop new ways that are as creative and innovative as are the emerging platforms.” – Austin Mayor Steve Adler
Next steps – Adler is currently working on this project with tech leaders throughout Austin. He is also working with some members of city council to draft a new ordinance that provides incentives for fingerprint-based background checks, but does not require them. This issue is expected to be raised at the January 28th city council meeting.