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Austin Mayor Proposes Voluntary Fingerprinting for Ride-Hailing App Drivers

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Austin Mayor Steve Adler plans to propose a new set of incentives to resolve the standoff over fingerprinting drivers for ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft.

Adler is proposing a voluntary fingerprinting regime to replace the mandatory one passed by the Austin City Council last month, set to take effect next month. Under Adler's plan, drivers would volunteer to go through a fingerprint check or other safety screenings done by a third party. The driver could then display a badge or icon within the ride-hailing app to show they have passed.

"We're talking about here something kind of like the PowerSeller badge on eBay," said Adler. "We're talking about people who are voluntarily putting on their profile some validator that provides information to someone that they might be dealing with in the new sharing peer-to-peer economy. And this would be like that."

As Adler envisions it, the system could apply to other "sharing economy" services, including short-term rental operations like AirBnB.

The council is supposed to take the fingerprinting issue up during its first meeting of 2016 on Jan. 28.

Adler's plan comes as Uber, Lyft, a technology lobbying firm and several other groups are attempting to gather thousands of signatures to try to roll back the mandatory fingerprinting regulations passed by the Council last month. The companies want the city to keep the current rules in place. If the petitioners gather 20,000 valid signatures, the Council would either have to pass the regulations called for by the petitioners, or put the measure to a public vote.

KUT reached out to both Uber and Lyft but did not receive a response by the time of publication. 

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