Update, Nov. 5 — The CPUC issued a new ruling on Tuesday superseding the previous ruling that we reported on Nov. 3. See details at the bottom of this post.
Sidecar has the green light to offer its carpooling service in its home state, as regulators gave official permission to the on-demand transportation company on Friday.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said that Sidecar can now legally operate its Shared Rides feature, which allows users to share rides with others who are going on similar routes, enabling them to save money on fares.
“When regulators and innovators work together consumers win,” Sidecar CEO Sunil Paul wrote in a blog post. “This ruling is a direct result of our continued collaboration with the CPUC to evolve and update the law so that safe and affordable transportation services like Sidecar can continue to serve Californians. We look forward to expanding Shared Rides in San Francisco and the rest of the state.”
Sidecar, along with Uber and Lyft — which also have their own carpooling features — was ordered by the CPUC in September to stop operating Shared Rides in San Francisco because of legal issues with calculating fare rates.
Sidecar, which refused to stop Shared Rides, then filed a motion with the CPUC on Oct. 10 to have the carpooling issue discussed in an upcoming review of the on-demand startups. On Friday, CPUC Commissioner Michael Peevey specifically ruled that only Sidecar may continue to offer its Shared Ride service because Sidecar had complied with the CPUC’s annual reporting requirements.
Paul noted that the CPUC will “begin a full review of the application of the law to Shared Rides,” in December.
“Until then, we have the CPUC’s blessing to continue to offer Shared Rides in California until that review is complete,” he wrote.
We’ve reached out to Uber and Lyft for comment and to see if their carpooling services — UberPool and Lyft Line — will be approved soon, too. (Update: Lyft says that it plans on seeking the “same type of interim approval” soon.)
Meanwhile, Sidecar today also expanded Shared Rides in Chicago and San Diego. The company, which raised $15 million in September, has tested the feature since May — before Uber and Lyft — and Paul told us in August that “people love this thing.”
“The feedback from riders is fantastic — they’re overwhelmingly excited about saving money, and it’s a social experience,” Paul said. “On the other side of the equation, drivers are making more money when they do shared rides. The combination is really powerful.”
Update, Nov. 5 — The CPUC on Tuesday decided to not allow Sidecar to operate its Shared Rides feature until its review of the law is completed in December. Sidecar spokeswoman Margaret Ryan said that the company did not expect the CPUC to change its mind and plans to continue offering Shared Rides regardless.
“Our position is firm,” she said. “Shared Rides are good for California and we’ll continue to operate as we work through these arcane regulations.”