ALBANY - The wait for ride-hailing across New York is about to come to an end.
A new state law regulating ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft will take effect Thursday, clearing the way for the companies to launch at midnight -- provided the state approves their license applications before then.
Upstate and suburban residents have long clamored for ride-hailing, which allows riders to summon a driver with the push of a button on a smartphone app.
But the launch comes as Uber deals with a wave of scandals across the country that has led to widespread negative publicity and the resignation of its CEO last week.
Here's what you need to know ahead of Uber and Lyft's statewide launch:
When will ride-hailing begin?
At 12:01 a.m. Thursday, if all goes according to plan.
Uber and Lyft both say they will turn their apps on statewide the very first minute they're legally allowed.
So if you're out late as Wednesday night turns into Thursday morning, you should be able to summon an Uber or a Lyft home, particularly in the state's larger cities.
"We are tremendously excited to launch in Rochester and across the area on Thursday, June 29th at 12:01am ET," according to a Lyft company statement.
But first ...
Uber, Lyft still need DMV approval
The new state law requires the state Department of Motor Vehicles to approve ride-hailing companies for something called a "transportation network company license" before they launch.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the DMV hasn't approved either company's application.
DMV spokesman Joseph Morrissey said Tuesday the agency is "finishing up the review process in advance of the launch on the 29th." Only Uber and Lyft have applied for a license, he said.
The companies are expecting the approval will come before Thursday.
They both submitted their applications and $100,000 application fees earlier this month.
Where will I be able to get a ride?
Theoretically, anywhere in the state. In practice, it will depend on the amount of drivers logged on to the system.
Uber and Lyft employ drivers who use their personal vehicles and have the freedom to work when they please.
So whether riders have access to a driver will depend on how many drivers are logged onto the system and where they are.
That's not expected to be an issue in larger cities like Rochester, Buffalo and Yonkers. But it could lead to spottier service in more rural areas, particularly in the early days.
Counties and four large cities -- Rochester, Yonkers, Buffalo and Syracuse -- had the option to block ride-hailing within their boundaries. So far, none have.
What's going on with Uber?
Uber, the largest ride-hailing company, has gone through a major shakeup in recent weeks.
Travis Kalanick, the company's CEO, stepped down last week amid a steady stream of company problems, including questions about sexism and a toxic culture within the company as well as the company's aggressive expansion strategies, particularly in cities that resisted Uber.
Kalanick was pressured by the company's investors to step down, according to The New York Times.
Wasn't ride-hailing already in NYC?
Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies do already operate in New York City under the city's taxi laws, which require drivers to have certain types of black cars and carry a commercial driver's license, among other requirements.
The new law applies to the rest of the state.
It made it possible for the companies to carry "pooled" insurance coverage to cover drivers' personal cars while they're working, which Uber and Lyft had said was an impediment to expand.
How does it work?
First, you have to download an app to your smartphone.
The Uber and Lyft apps are available for free download in the Apple and Google Play app stores.
Once you open the app and enter your information, you plug in the address of where you want to go and summon a ride.
The state law doesn't regulate the price of your trip, but the companies are required to give you an estimated fare before you accept.
Unlike most taxi companies, ride-hailing apps adjust their pricing due to demand, so it's generally more expensive during high-demand periods.
Know of any deals?
The two major ride-hailing companies offer discounts for new riders on their first trip.
Uber offers up to $15 off a user's first ride by entering the promo code HITTHEROAD in the app.
Lyft has a variety of promo codes: LYFTCOUPON9 is good for a $3 credit for a new user's first three rides; NEWUSER10 will get you $5 off your first two rides; and 20LYFTPROMO is good for a $2 credit on your first 10 rides, according to the company's website.
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