After months of fighting fingerprint requirements, ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft were able to strike a deal with the Maryland Public Service Commission last week. In order to get a waiver of the fingerprint requirement for their drivers, the companies must undergo an alternative background check process laid out by the commission.
The new background check requires that ride-share companies rerun background checks annually, require drivers to report arrests and convictions within three business days, look back through entire adult history of its applicants, require the driver to return the company's car and decals if they become permanently deactivated, and file annual reports to the commission detailing any complaints or deactivations.
"We find that the alternative background check processes we approve are as comprehensive and accurate as the fingerprint-based background check," the commission stated.
Although the validity of fingerprints in forensic cases has come under fire in recent years, other licensed professionals in Maryland, including taxi drivers and medical providers, must still have their prints examined against state and FBI databases.
Understandably, taxicab advocates were a bit let down with the decision. According to The Sun, Dave Sutton, speaking on behalf of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, said his group was "disappointed Maryland hasn't chosen to require fingerprint background checks to protect passengers, but heartened to see incremental tightening in the requirements"
Uber Maryland, on the other hand, was ecstatic with the decision. "For more than five years, Uber has helped Marylanders with access to reliable, affordable transportation options and flexible work opportunities," the company said in a statement. "Today the Maryland Public Service Commission made a positive decision that ensures that the Uber you know and love can continue to operate in Maryland. With your support, we were able to show the PSC Commissioners that the service provided through Uber is a safe and viable option."
Of course, this could all be obsolete if Uber's self-driving pilot program—which just moved from San Fransisco to Scottsdale, Arizona—gets off the ground.