by: Jenna Deery Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Thousands of people are hopping into the cars of complete strangers to get around town.
They're using ride-sharing programs Uber and Lyft.
The ride sharing companies are like taxi companies, except drivers use their personal cars.
Their standards for safety are up to Uber and Lyft -- not city officials, who regulate cab drivers.
Channel 9 reporter Jenna Deery took five rides in one day.
Both companies say they require safe drivers using safe cars.
Channel 9 noticed all of the cars we rode in were clean.
One Uber driver even provided his own refreshments.
Overall, the drivers were pleasant.
One Lyft driver said she was trained and is supervised on how she treats passengers.
Both companies said they conduct background checks on every driver and inspect his or her vehicle.
They said they deny any applicant who has a criminal conviction or bad driving record within the past seven years.
Channel 9 found that some drivers in other cities have made it past those checkpoints..
These men had prior convictions from burglary and reckless driving to DUI, but they were allowed to drive for Uber in Chicago and San Francisco.
The app shows you a picture of the driver and his or her vehicle, but customers have no way of verifying the drivers' backgrounds.
Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes said neither does the city.
“We want to make sure that we don't have violent people, dangerous people driving these people,” he said.
City leaders are considering whether the drivers should follow the same rules cab drivers follow.
“I don't think we are overreacting. In fact, we are taking fairly measurable steps to protect the public,” Barnes said.
Cab drivers have to pay $500 for a permit, undergo a background check and maintain proper insurance.
Civil litigation attorney Mike Daisley said most personal policies don't apply if a personal car is being used for business purposes.
Uber and Lyft advertise coverage that protects passengers if a wreck happens while drivers are working.
“What happens if there is actually an accident or a wreck remains to be seen, but at least they are advertising to the public that their drivers do have adequate liability insurance,” Daisley said.
Both services have their skeptics, but they also seem to be attracting many fans.
Customers have to rate Uber and Lyft drivers.
Four stars or better are required for them to keep driving.
The question is whether local leaders will have a say on how they drive too.
Drivers can also rate passengers.
Passengers have to keep a good rating or they won't be picked up.
City leaders may recommend regulation options for Uber and Lyft in the fall.