Uber, Lyft at Center of Innovation Debate in Austin and Houston

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the world that says, ‘Innovation is not welcome here.’ ”

Joseph Kopser founded RideScout, a transportation mobile app that he sold to Daimler-Benz two years ago. A transportation enthusiast, he has long supported alternative ways to commute. He, too, has come out in support of the ride-hailing companies. “We find our community debating an issue that has worked well for two years,” Kopser wrote in his blog. “At the end of the day, the benefits far outweigh the system’s imperfections.”

The outcome of Saturday’s vote could impact other cities. An Uber victory in Austin could give its position there some support, and also could impact other cities like Los Angeles and Miami, which are also considering a fingerprint requirement.

(Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner responded to Uber’s threat by telling the Houston Business Journal he hopes the service will stay in the city. “But if I have to choose — and I believe this city will choose — between public safety on one hand and Uber staying on the other, I don’t think it’ll be close.”)

Late on Wednesday, a class-action lawsuit was filed in federal court against Uber over “robo-text messages” the company has been sending to Austin area customers that asked them to support the company in the election. The suit claims that Uber violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending the unwanted texts without prior consent.

The unsolicited texts were the subject of many complaints over social media from people put off by the aggressive campaigning.

In total, the Austin American-Statesman has reported that Uber and Lyft have spent more than $8 million, an astonishing amount for municipal referendums that typically receive scant attention and low voter turnout.

“Sheesh, Uber,” tweeted Austin political consultant Harold Cook last week, “for $8.1 million you could have damn near fingerprinted everybody in Austin.”

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