DA warns about safety of carpooling apps

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has sent letters to transportation network companies Lyft, Uber and Sidecar threatening legal action, officials said Thursday.

Among other issues, the letters targeted the companies’ new carpooling features, which match drivers with passengers traveling in similar directions across The City.

The move echoes a declaration by the California Public Utilities Commission earlier this month that the instant carpooling products are illegal. Garcon said in a statement:

“We value innovation and new modes of providing service to the public; however we need to make sure that the safety and well-being of consumers are adequately protected in the process.”

Sunil Paul, the chief executive officer of the ride-sharing company Sidecar, received one of the letters from Gascón and took to the Sidecar website to urge users to fight back.

Paul urged users of all ridesharing companies to sign a petition on Change.org asking the California Public Utilities Commission and the state’s district attorney’s offices “to end their campaign to stop Sidecar
Shared Rides, UberPool, and Lyft Line in California.”

Paul call the regulators “overzealous” and said that they are “acting under pressure from big taxi companies.”

Paul said shared rides are “safe and very affordable, cut down on traffic congestion and reduce pollution.”

According to Uber’s company blog, 1,600 pounds of greenhouse gases can be kept out of the air per year by carpooling just twice a week.

Neither Gascón nor Paul revealed whether the letter delivered has required the immediate end to the carpooling service. As of this evening, those carpooling services were still available via the companies’ apps.