Cities shouldn't be 'over prescriptive' in regulating new tech, say mobility leaders

Source: Smart Cities Dive | Chris Teale | April 26, 2019

Dive Brief:

  • City governments should avoid being "over prescriptive" when they regulate new technology and transportation options in order to allow innovation to flourish and avoid imposing restraints on future growth.

  • At a roundtable in Washington, DC hosted by law firm Dentons, representatives of mobility companies including Uber and Lime warned that while it might be tempting for governments to introduce tough regulations in a bid to regain control over disruptive technology, in the long run it could constrain innovation.

  • "We're not saying, 'Don't engage the policy conversation.' Let's definitely have it,” David Schatz, director of public policy at electric vehicle (EV) charging company ChargePoint, said during the roundtable. “But let's have all the facts about where it's going and actually where it currently is so that we continue to leave enough room for all of us to innovate but have a clear, open direction of where the market is going and a recognition that these technologies actually exist."

Dive Insight:

The conversation highlighted an inherent tension in the transportation and mobility space, as city leaders often scramble to regulate new and disruptive technologies, but come under fire from some parties for over-legislating and stifling that same innovation. It comes with cities still trying to get a handle on new transportation modes such as dockless bikes and scooters, and with memories still fresh of the unexpected influx of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft.

During the roundtable, Nicholas Zabriskie, Uber’s public policy manager for the Mid-Atlantic, said that such technologies are designed to give city dwellers as many options as possible for getting around, especially if it means reducing personal car usage. Zabriskie echoed the words of Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who has repeatedly said the company wishes to be about more than ride-hailing and cooperate on all areas of mobility. "What we would like to be is collaborative partners to design better transportation systems," he said.

Policymakers sometimes fall into the habit of trying to "protect things that exist rather than provide new opportunities to improve lives," said Ben LaRocco, senior manager of state policy at Lime, but if they take a holistic approach to mobility and see every transportation method as part of an integrated ecosystem, they can make progress.

Faye DiMassimo, transportation specialist leader at Deloitte Consulting, added that cities cannot stop the march of progress, including in areas like dockless mobility. "This is not something where you can say, ‘We don’t want them, we’re going to let them go away,'" she said.

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