Updated at 2 p.m. to include comments from Mayor Steve Adler:

A revised Austin City Council ordinance to regulate transportation network companies, or TNCs, could set benchmarks to work toward a goal of having ride-sharing companies' drivers fingerprinted in Austin.

The ordinance also establishes a framework to create driver incentives for reaching that goal and disincentives for not reaching it, Mayor Steve Adler said at a Dec. 17 news conference. It also removes the requirement to have background checks on all ride-share drivers completed by Feb. 1, 2017, which was outlined previously, he said.

“There is nothing in this ordinance [that could be] passed tonight that makes fingerprinting mandatory,” Adler said, adding he does not think any TNC companies will cease operations as a result of the ordinance if it is passed.

Original story, posted Dec. 17:

After months of discussion, Austin City Council is slated to consider changes Dec. 17 to the city’s ordinance regulating ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

Council had approved an interim ordinance in October 2014 to allow transportation network companies, or TNCs, to operate in the city—one hailed by many as a national model—with a caveat that new council members elected under the 10-1 City Council districts must revisit the ordinance.

Council’s Mobility Committee already discussed some proposed changes, such as annual fees, but chose to send the remainder of the proposed changes to the full council for discussion.

One of the most controversial issues that Uber and Lyft have protested is requiring TNC drivers to be fingerprinted as part of the background check. During a Dec. 15 event at the Capital Factory, Mayor Steve Adler said riders will be safest with drivers who are biometrically linked to their background checks, instead of just using their names. When he asked TNC drivers in the room if they would not mind being fingerprinted, he said about 90 percent did not.

“It’s my hope the city adopts positions of preserving TNCs and not set up something that makes them leave but that we will develop something to encourage the conduct we want to see in the city,” he said.

He said if council approves fingerprinting it is likely both Uber and Lyft would leave Austin.

In a Dec. 15 open letter to City Council, representatives from 13 Austin companies—including RideScout CEO Joseph Kopser; Sara Levine, ATX Safer Streets executive director; Dewitt Peart, president and CEO of Downtown Austin Alliance; and Silicon Labs CEO Tyson Tuttle—said proposed changes would duplicate existing onboarding requirements for drivers and implement operating fees that are higher than any other city in the country.

“The City Council has a critical choice to make: maintain a model ordinance that creates flexible jobs for Austinites looking to make ends meet, provides more transportation options [and] fights congestion and drunk driving; or impose onerous operating requirements on TNCs that could very well force Lyft and Uber to leave Austin, as happened in San Antonio when faced with similar mandates,” according to the letter.

Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton issued a statement Dec. 16 about public safety issues that could arise if Uber and Lyft leave the city. He said data from the Austin Police Department show the number of arrests for driving while intoxicated fell 16 percent in 2014 after increasing the previous three years. Uber and Lyft began operations in 2013.

"While the casual relationship requires more study, TNCs have made safe rides home readily to our citizens and are undoubtedly making our city safer," Hamilton said in the statement. "Drunk driving is an epidemic in Austin. It is my strong opinion that we ensure that TNC companies remain operational in Austin as they provide a critical service that is keeping Austin much safer than we were without them."

Chelsea Wilson, public policy communications manager for Lyft, said the company will not operate in cities that require fingerprinting. Lyft exited San Antonio after the city added mandatory fingerprinting. But when San Antonio changed fingerprinting to be optional, Lyft resumed operations Dec. 3.

Lyft uses a third-party background check, which checks records tied to an individual’s name and social security number. The process to become a driver also involves an in-person screening, a ridealong and a vehicle check. The background check can take about one week to finish.

Wilson said about 80 percent of Lyft’s drivers drive 15 or fewer hours, which is one reason the company is against using fingerprinting during the background check. Adding the extra layer would put the burden on the prospective driver.

During an Oct. 7 meeting of the City Council Mobility Committee, Uber representative Adam Blinick told council members fingerprinting could be discriminatory because if a person was arrested, the background check results do not show whether charges were filed or dropped. He also said that for some crimes, such as drunk driving or domestic abuse, the person may not have been fingerprinted.

Blinick said Uber also has technology to provide added security to riders and drivers, including GPS tracking that allows riders to share their real-time routes with someone else.

However, one company, Get Me—which received its TNC permit Dec. 4 and launched ride-hailing services Dec. 15—supports the proposed fingerprinting requirement for drivers.

Jonathan Laramy, Get Me’s chief experience officer, said the company operates in Houston, which mandates fingerprinting. He said a fingerprint-based background check—versus a name-based check—is a more valid test of someone’s history.

“When we did our research, the No. 1 thing we could do to make sure others will use the app from the driver side and consumer side was safety and security—absolutely the top for both,” he said.

Additional reporting by Jennifer Curington and Kelli Weldon