State authorities will begin a formal investigation into how to regulate ride-sharing companies such as Lyft, Sidecar and Uber — an inquiry that could eventually legitimize the controversial businesses.

For the past two years, the California Public Utilities Commission has struggled to provide oversight of the burgeoning industry…The commission has issued cease-and-desist orders to the startups and levied fines of $20,000 apiece.

On Thursday, the commission opened an order instituting rule-making, a formal investigation that will explore aspects of ride-sharing, technological innovations, safety, insurance and jurisdiction over the companies. In six months, the commission anticipates a proposed decision on how to regulate the companies.

 

Photo Credit: DeSoto Cab is a traditional taxi company in San Francisco. BlueWakiki / Flickr.com