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FACTFINDER: Is ridesharing company Uber breaking state law?

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A new company could change the way you travel, but it's also raising questions about proper licensing.

A ride-sharing group called Uber is making it easier and cheaper than a taxi for those who don't own a car in the South Bend area to get around. It's already working in 100 cities across the country, including Chicago and Indianapolis.

Here's how it works: anyone who needs a ride can download the Uber app onto their smartphone. Then, enter in pick-up and drop-off locations. An independently contracted driver will come take you where you need to go.

WSBT's Annie Chang tried out the new app. After ordering a ride, driver Dan Tinkel arrived to pick her up within five minutes.

"I'm always running errands and I thought, 'What a great idea,'" Tinkel says. "If I could run around and someone needs a ride, there's a lot of college kids and older folks who can't drive. If I can make a few bucks, that's great."

The service is cheaper than hailing a taxi. The company charges a $1.90 flat rate, then $1.25 per mile and $.25 per minute.

That means a trip from the WSBT station in Mishawaka to the South Bend Airport - 10 miles, 20 minutes - costs about $19.40.

A local cab company would charge around $29 for the same trip.

But local cab drivers are unhappy with Uber's presence, and also claim their drivers are breaking the law.

Kerry Clear has made a living taking people where they need to go.

"To go to the bar, to go to the grocery store, to get to doctors' appointments, to get to work," Clear lists.

Clear owns the Blue Ribbon Taxi company in Mishawaka.

He's not worried about competition - as long as it's fair. And right now, he says, Uber isn't playing fair.

Indiana state law says anyone who wants to become a driver for hire, including Clear's cabbies, must jump through several hoops:

"They have to have a public passengers chauffeur's license, so they have to pass a physical," Clear says. "The City of South Bend requires a drug test, so you know that your driver is not partaking in illegal substances."

Uber drivers do have to pass a "stringent" background check, according to regional general manager Pooneet Kant. The company also provides insurance when the driver is working with up to $1 million of coverage.

Still, the State Bureau of Motor Vehicles requires drivers for hire to have a chauffeur's license.

But Tinkel, who started his first shift Thursday afternoon, says his services are different from a taxi's, especially because driving is not his full-time job.

"I'm not going out and soliciting rides downtown when people are hitting the bars," Tinkel says. "I'm not sitting in a taxi queue at a hotel."

The BMV says the state does not have the power to enforce these laws, but that it is up to local governments to do that.

Kara Kelly, spokesperson for the City of South Bend, says ridesharing is not considered public driving for hire, but the city is willing to give the classification and regulations another look.

Clear says he and other local cab companies are meeting with the city Friday morning to discuss how Uber impacts their business.

The South Bend Airport released a statement Thursday afternoon stating Uber drivers will not be allowed to pick up passengers from the airport.

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"Our ordinance and rules and regulations are in place for the safety of the traveling public," said SBN Executive Director Mike Daigle. "This is why the approved vehicles for hire option at SBN is taxi cabs at this time."

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