New York Drops Plan to Require Uber to Seek Approval for Apps

New York City dropped a plan requiring Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services to get approval for upgrades to their smartphone apps after technology companies including Facebook Inc. protested.

Instead, the Taxi & Limousine Commission will only require ride-for-hire services to notify it when they intend to change the apps they use to attract passengers, according to a fact sheet the agency released Thursday. The change, scheduled for a vote June 22, was lauded by Uber and its allies, who say they won’t have to waste marketing time waiting for regulatory approval.

“Uber is proud to support the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s revised rules, which allow tech innovation to continue making New York City’s transportation system more progressive for all riders and drivers,” said Josh Mohrer, the company’s New York general manager, in a prepared statement.

Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc. and other companies aired their displeasure with the original plan during a May 28 hearing in which they accused Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration of hindering advances in technology. Just this week, at the groundbreaking for Cornell Tech, a $2 billion engineering school planned for Roosevelt Island, de Blasio hailed the industry as crucial to the city’s future economy.

‘Significant Departure’

Last month, the Internet Association, a trade group, sent a letter to de Blasio signed by Google Inc., Yahoo! Inc., Twitter Inc. and Facebook, among others, telling the mayor his policy “appears to indicate a significant departure from this administration’s policy of encouraging innovation.”

On Thursday, Noah Theran, a spokesman for the group, praised the decision.

“The TLC has drafted rules that preserve a driver’s choice to drive for multiple platforms and take a technology-neutral approach which allows companies to upgrade software without asking for permission to innovate,” he said in a statement.

The new rules will make practices for picking up and canceling rides consistent with those of traditional yellow-cab companies.

The agency will also require that drivers display their fare rates. Companies such as Uber that use surge pricing, in which the cost of a ride increases with heavy demand, must tell passengers how much they should expect to pay.

“We can still review their application change after the fact,” said Allan Fromberg, TLC spokesman. “If we see a problem we can still advise them and insist that they make any necessary changes.”

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