SideCar, a company providing a paid carpooling service, has sued the city of Austin, claiming that the city is illegally restricting its business.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, SideCar has sued Austin, the week after the Texas capital's city council ruled that services like SideCar, which enable people with room in their cars to offer rides to strangers for a fee, are illegal.
During SXSW here this week, SideCar has been just one of several services offering riders a free way to get around town. After the city council's ruling, SideCar decided to make all rides free during SXSW rather than risk their drivers being stopped and possibly arrested, or at least ticketed.
SideCar is based in San Francisco, but had hoped to get a lot of attention for its service by offering rides in Austin during SXSW. The city council had ruled that services built around drivers charging riders a fee without the appropriate license were illegal and constituted a crime.
In a blog post about its suit, SideCar wrote: "We don't think ridesharing is in violation of Austin's Transportation Code and we've asked the court to decide so we can bring the benefits of rideshare to the citizens of Austin....We believe the Austin Transportation Department has misinterpreted its City Code and that rideshare is legal and protected under Austin transportation law."
SideCar said that the reasons it thinks that its service is legitimate are that it's not a transportation service, but rather a technology platform enabling peer-to-peer ride-sharing, and that while Austin's rules regulate "chauffeured vehicles," SideCar doesn't itself own or operate vehicles or dispatch riders or mandate shifts.
"If the City of Austin moves forward with impounding the vehicles of our rideshare community," SideCar wrote, "we think they're the ones breaking the law."