Uber, Lyft Say They Will Leave Austin Following Defeat in Election

Austin—Uber and Lyft have said they will pull out of Austin following a Saturday referendum that approved regulations that called for the ride-hailing companies to fingerprint drivers.

“Disappointment does not begin to describe how we feel about shutting down operations in Austin,” said Chris Nakutis, Uber’s Austin general manager, in a statement according to the Texas Tribune. “We hope the City Council will reconsider their ordinance so we can work together to make the streets of Austin a safer place for everyone.”

Fifty-six percent of Austin voters supported security regulations enacted by the Austin City Council last December.

Local media reported that as many as 10,000 Uber drivers could soon be out of work if the company does follow through with its threat. Lyft said it would withdraw service from Austin by 5 a.m. Monday, while Uber said it would do the same by 8 a.m., according to the Austin American Statesman.

Supporters of the fingerprinting regulations say the rules are needed to ensure public safety of passengers.

“The people have spoken clearly tonight. Uber and Lyft are welcome to stay and I invite them to the table regardless,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler wrote in a tweet following vote Saturday. “Austin is an innovative, creative city. Right now, we’re going to need to be at our most innovative and creative.”

But some prominent members of Austin’s innovation community said the city’s rules amounted to unneeded government intrusion and would result in a tarnished image of a city that prides itself on being at the forefront of technological advances.

In the days leading up to the vote, supporters of ride-hailing companies, like Joshua Baer of Capital Factory and others, were strong advocates for Lyft and Uber’s petition to end the fingerprinting regulations.

Uber and Lyft had spent more than $8 million on efforts to get Austin voters to agree with the companies’ stance, outspending those supporting the city 50-to-1 in the most expensive election in the city’s history.

This weekend, that firepower wasn’t enough.

Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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