The prevalence of private-hire car companies is undeniable. The introduction of Uber and Lyft in cities across North America has completely changed the way that people get around. In Southeast Asia, companies like Grab and Go-Jek have made similar incursions into the culture, and as in North America, this has led to conversations around safety and regulation. In an article for CNA (Channel News Asia), Jonathan Chang makes a case for better regulation of private-hire car operators, arguing that regulation will be vital in ensuring that safety increases alongside profit margins.
"Competition in general encourages companies to increase customer service and experience... But here lies a potential issue if our regulators and policy makers did not step in to license, monitor and regulate the sector accordingly. Companies might in their quest for profit and market expansion neglect the safety of drivers and passengers."
The problem is not that private-hire car companies are unable to closely monitor driver activity - in fact, as Chang points out, these companies collect tons of data on trips conducted, from the number of hours that drivers have been on the road to the number of complaints that have been lodged against them by customers. While this technology could be used to increase safety, it could potentially be expensive, something that dissuades companies from taking action.
Where safety is concerned, who is responsible for ensuring that drivers are safe? If private-hire car companies are not willing to take responsibility, then the question of better regulation is more important than ever. After all, private-hire car sharing is not going away, so the least we can do is make sure that it is safe.
To read the entirety of Chang's argument for regulations, click here.