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Ride sharing in recalled cars

An auto recall occurs when a manufacturer or governmental entity determines that a specific model (or models) has a safety defect that is not in line with a safety standard at a state or federal level. Once a recall is established, owners are alerted, and the typical response is a free repair. 

The recall repair letter will contain a description of the defect, the hazard or risk that the problem poses, warning signs, how the manufacturer is going to remedy said problem, and finally, instructions on what you should do next. This all sounds rather involved, right? You bet, so when a car is recalled, it is sort of a big deal.  And if we told you that for every 6 times you road in an Uber or Lyft you’d be riding in a recalled car, how freaked out would you be? Extremely freaked? You bet!

An investigation by Consumer Reports in May of this year confirmed these findings, which needless to say had some interesting ripple effects through the ride-sharing giants. While many of the problems were far from serious – brake light failures, etc. – some posed a real risk. The consumer advocacy group, the Center for Auto Safety, has sent a plethora of letters to Juno, Uber, Lyft and Via urging them to address this. Apparently the problem is rampant throughout the ride-sharing community and some collective action has been called upon. The Center’s Executive Director even went as far as saying that a company should give their passenger the choice of traveling in a recalled vehicle or no. While most agree, the logistics behind this are daunting.

The problem with all this however is the degree of the recall isn’t always published. Many times it is communicated that said car has a recall, but a recall can mean a bum light, or faulty engine wiring. One is clearly more severe than the other and that is what ride-sharing platforms are concerned about. One can rightly imagine the scare tactics that can be propagated with this type of news in the wrong hands.

Uber has been involved in some nasty arbitration as a result, and Lyft is no better. While the industry as a whole is seeking a collective response, the response is pricey, as it requires a regular review of cars that no company currently engages in. Once one assumes the cost however, look for the rest of the industry to follow the herd. We’re still on stampede watch … 

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