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Although it remains officially banned in both cities, ride-sharing service Uber announced on Wednesday that it would operate its services in both Austin and Miami. Uber also launched in Orlando, where government officials are “reviewing the current situation” to ensure it complies with local laws.
Uber has been locked in a regulatory battle with both cities for quite some time. In Austin, city officials have categorized the company as a “for-hire driving service,” which requires a specific license in order to charge riders more than 56 cents per mile. Meanwhile, in Miami, Uber has been locked out of competing directly with cabs despite negotiating for the past two years.
“To date, tens of thousands of South Florida residents and visitors have opened the Uber app to connect with a reliable ride, only to find their transportation needs couldn’t be met. Miami deserves better, ” the company said in a blog post.
The move seems to follow the lead of competitor Lyft, which launched in both cities in late May. While the differences between the two companies come down to semantics — particularly in that Uber offers a black car service and Lyft’s payments are technically “donations” — both have drawn the ire of local regulators. In fact, since Lyft launched in Austin just six days ago, The City of Austin has already impounded the vehicles of two drivers for operating without a valid chauffeur’s license. Meanwhile, the City of Miami has issued 11 citations to Lyft drivers.
It’s clear that the presence of Uber and Lyft in these cities, despite local laws, means that both startups are willing to take their negotiations out of city hall and directly into the hands of the public.
Update: Uber released a blog post on the rollout in Austin, and is offering up to 20 free rides over the next two weeks.