Image: Uber circa 1802
By Jessy Nations
With the advent of the smartphone, people have gained unfettered access to technology and services previous generations never could have imagined. With a few taps on your touchscreen, you can have someone pick you up and drive you anywhere in the city. Going on a trip? You can find lodging nearly anywhere at an ostensibly reasonable price. Hungry? Through the miracle of technology, you can have groceries or meals from your favorite restaurant delivered right to your doorstep. It’s all thanks to the wonders of the exciting new “sharing economy.”
Of course, none of this is actually new. Uber is a taxi service that forces its drivers to provide their own cars. Airbnb allows you to rent a hotel room in some stranger’s house. There is an entire field of law that is older than the United States that regulates common carriers, such as taxis, and another field regulating hotels called hospitality law. But Uber isn’t considered a common carrier; it’s “ride sharing.” Airbnb isn’t a hotel service; it’s a “home sharing” platform.