The annual South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas has no Uber or Lyft drivers to transport conference goers this year, and it's causing more pandemonium than it probably should. The tech world elites that normally flock to the conference each year, in the short few years that Uber and Lyft have been around, have become dependent enough on it, at least during the conference, that many of them are taking to Twitter and other platforms to vent their frustrations. The collective tantrum was hardly stemmed at all by the transit startups that popped up in place of the two giants, all of whom ended up experiencing too much demand and reporting outages in short order.
Uber and Lyft made their way out of Austin after a law was signed that required background checks and other considerations for drivers. Since they thought it easier to make an exit than to bring their workforce and methods into compliance with the new laws, the gulf left behind has since been occupied by a number of local and international startups that work in a similar fashion. As noted above, these smaller replacements, whose workforces and wallets were smaller than the two companies that they were replacing in the area, simply did not have what it took to meet demand when SXSW came into town, bringing innumerable travelers with it.
The frustrations surrounding Uber and Lyft's exit from the city actually point to a bigger problem. Austin, like a number of other large cities out there, still has subpar city-owned transit, such as busses, subways, shuttles, and the like. Thanks to Uber and Lyft, the onus to fix these systems and add capacity never really reached a fever pitch, which means that when Uber and Lyft were yanked away suddenly, especially right before a large-scale event, the existing transit solutions simply were not up to snuff. On the other side of the coin, executives and prominent tech figures at the conference are themselves showing a bit of a problem in their reliance upon Uber and Lyft, or other services like them, to help them navigate urban areas.