The Austin Police Department is warning SXSW attendees that they may be inadvertently breaking the law by accepting an Uber ride.
In a blog post, the APD notes that “unpermitted ground transportation services are possibly recruiting for drivers in Austin, so the City of Austin wants people to be aware of the rules and risks before unintentionally breaking the law and incurring legal costs.”
Someone tweeted at the Austin PD and asked if Uber rides were permitted in the city, to which it replied, “no they are not.”
Uber is temporarily making its transportation service available in Austin for the festival. However, due to city regulations, Uber requires a minimum price of $55 for its UberBlack luxury option and is offering periodic free rides on UberX, its cheaper service, because Austin does not allow drivers of companies like UberX, Sidecar and Lyft to accept payment. Uber also is offering up pedicab rides.
The APD reminds citizens that compensated drivers of a ground transportation service must have an operating permit, a chauffer’s permit and commercial insurance. An Uber spokesperson confirmed with us that its drivers in Austin this week have all three.
Similar to cities like Portland, Austin also has a requirement that forces customers to arrange a trip with an executive sedan or limousine at least 30 minutes prior to pick-up. However, for its SXSW services, Uber managed to get around this rule because there is an exception for “corporate contracts,” and the arrangement Uber has with its UberBlack partners is a “corporate contract.”
As noted by Ryan Lawler of TechCrunch, it seems Uber brought in drivers from other cities to meet demand in Austin this week. Lawler’s driver was from Dallas and didn’t seem to know the area very well.
The APD’s post recommends various transportation options available, but unsurprisingly leaves out Uber.
To drum up attention around its service at SXSW this year, Uber has partnered with famous chefs, musicians and others for a promotion called “all access,” which will give lucky Uber riders a chance to win tickets and ride along with people like creativeLive co-founder Chase Jarvis and rapper Kid Ink.