Is That Taxi or Ride-Share Car Safe?

New study warns many taxis, Uber and Lyft vehicles haven’t had recalls repaired.

by on Nov.21, 2016

The safety of ride-sharing companies like Uber or Lyft should not just be measured by problems with the drivers, a new study shows.

Millions of Americans have used one of the new ride-sharing services, such as Lyft and Uber. And that’s expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. In fact, the co-CEO of Lyft has even predicted private car ownership could just about vanish in a decade’s time, especially if self-driving cars make it cheaper and easier to use these services to get around.

But before you hail an Uber or Lyft – or climb into the back seat of a cab, for that matter – you might want to think about safety. A new study warns that a sizable percentage of vehicles used by ride-sharing services and taxis have at least one safety-related recall that hasn’t been repaired.

The Journal of Record!

“That means consumers are riding in vehicles with issues ranging from the benign to the potentially catastrophic,” according to the report by Cars.com and media company Tegna Inc.

The study found that most major cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., there are no specific regulations requiring for-hire vehicles stay up-to-date on recall repairs. New York City does have strict safety rules, but even there, says Cars.com, a spot check found 27% of for-hire vehicles “had at least one outstanding recall.”

(Toyota gets piece of car-sharing startup. Click Here for details.)

The numbers ranged from about 20% in Tampa, according to spot checks, to 40% of for-hire vehicles in Seattle. The vast majority of the vehicles in Seattle that haven’t been repaired are Toyota Prius hybrids, a vehicle that has been targeted for a number of repairs in recent years, including one for brake systems that can occasionally malfunction during aggressive stops.

Uber is now using facial recognition software to ensure the driver picking up riders is actually the driver on the Uber profile. But how safe is the car?

In Houston, 31% of all for-hire vehicles had unrepaired recalls, a figure that jumped to 48% for taxis.

And it’s not just recent recalls that haven’t been dealt with. The study showed that some for-hire vehicles were still operating with safety issues targeted for repair as much as five years ago. These include faulty Takata airbags now blamed for at least a dozen U.S. deaths, as well as sticky accelerators on Toyota vehicles linked to a number of crashes, injuries and fatalities.

(Click Here to see how Uber is making rides safer.)

The problem impacts not just taxi fleets but the new, high-tech ride-sharing alternatives, such as Uber and Lyft. While those companies have safety policies in place, among other things requiring drivers to use relatively late-model vehicles, they have no specific recall rules.

“Drivers have a strong personal incentive to make sure their car is in a safe operating condition,” said Lyft spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna, and they must assert that their vehicles are up to industry safety standards. But there is no specific requirement that recall repairs must be completed before a car can be used to pick up rides.

One city that does require recall repairs is San Francisco. It demands that all for-hire vehicles be “maintained in a safe working condition,” with inspections every six to 12 months, depending on how many miles are on the odometer.

“If there is an immediate recall request, then companies would have to adhere to that,” said Paul Rose, chief spokesman for the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency.

(Lyft founder predicts death of car ownership in big cities by 2025. Click Here for the story.)

The for-hire industry’s poor rate of recall repairs is not unique. According to research to title tracking service CarFax, at least 50 million vehicles are now operating on U.S. roads – about 20% of the nation’s fleet – with at least one unrepaired recall. And with the number of recalls running at record levels for the last several years, experts fear the problem is only likely to get worse.

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