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Maryland panel settles with Uber

An UberX driver checks the customer app to see where other drivers are working so he can determine where the best place for him to get fares might be on April 7, 2014, in Washington, D.C. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)
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Uber has agreed to apply for a permit to operate its UberBlack and UberSUV services in Maryland.

The San Francisco-based company has also agreed to be treated as a “common carrier,” complying with a six-month-old ruling that the company is subject to state regulations.

The Maryland Public Service Commission on Thursday announced a settlement with Uber that will allow the company to continue to operate it’s high-class car services in the state. The commission said the company’s compliance with state regulations for sedans, limousines and other non-taxicab for-hire carriers will address previous concerns about the service’s public safety standards.

The settlement between Uber and the commission staff was announced six months after the MPSC ruled that the ride-sharing company must abide by regulations imposed on passenger-for-hire services in the state and that it should apply for a state permit for its UberBLACK or UberSUV services. In a separate case, the commission is also reviewing regulations that would apply to all ride-sharing services, including uber’s lower-cost service, UberX.

Uber said the company hopes for a more modern resolution to address the needs of the growing industry.

“Today’s action doesn’t change the fact that Maryland still needs to modernize its transportation laws to ensure the PSC isn’t forced to regulate Uber with 20th century transportation rules,” Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said. “We urge the state legislature to follow the lead of D.C., Virginia and the numerous other jurisdictions across the country that have enacted sensible ridesharing laws that embrace Uber’s innovative business model.”

Virginia and D.C. recently passed legislation setting regulatory frameworks for the app-based car services — and allowing them to operate legally.

The commission, which regulates private car services, is now reviewing new regulations for app-based ride sharing services. But representative from the taxi and ride sharing industries say they hope lawmakers will tackle the issue during this legislative session.

For now, this agreement will allow UberBlack and UberSUV to operate legally in the state.  The agreement requires that Uber’s subsidiary, Drinnen LLL, provide the commission with the names of all its drivers taking jobs through the company’s app. The company will also give the commission details about rates and charges. All drivers will hold Maryland passenger-for-hire driver’s licenses and will use vehicles that have Maryland operating permits, the commission said.

Some opponents of the app-based services told the commission to vote against the settlement, arguing that Uber has a history of breaking the law by operating in the state without first seeking permits, and they argued that the company’s least-expensive service, UberX, will continue to operate illegally in Maryland.