A Potential Hiccup In the Future Of the Sharing Economy?
Chicago Conference Brings to Light Consequences of Sharing Economy
In the summer of 2014, New Orleans was under a constant battle about whether or not to let Uber infiltrate The Big Easy. Visitors and residents alike were in favor of the company stepping in — there isn’t anything more difficult in NOLA than attempting to find a cab at 2 a.m. in the French Quarter. But city officials were hesitant, and the current taxi system was resolute: the introduction of Uber would clutter the city and decrease taxicab revenue.But in April of this year, the mayor of New Orleans signed into effect an ordinance for Uber and other ride-sharing economy services, such as Lyft.
All across the country, cities like NOLA are breaking down and accepting that Uber is a new way of life. Just as the taxicab was the quintessential getaway in the early 2000′s, so now is the late night tap on a phone app for a speedy Uber ride home. According to Justin Hubert, Liberty Justice Center senior attorney, “Uber just starts going city to city and just doing its thing. Because people like it so much, it’s difficult for the government to ban it.”
Now through August 4, the American Bar Association conference in Chicago is discussing a range of topics, from legalization of marijuana to police misconduct, as well as a seminar this past Thursday entitled “Is Sharing Really Caring? The Laws of Transportation Sharing, Uber, Lyft, etc.” The main premise of the talk was to discuss the ramifications of the ridesharing services, and how they are, and are not, regulated within certain boundaries of the american justice system. Hubert was one of the panelists during the talk.
According to Nicole DuPuis, senior associate for the organization’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research, almost every state has legislation regarding the sharing economy, whether that legislation is recently passed, or in the process of doing so. “What we have learned from this is it’s a really hyperlocal issue,” DuPuis said. “There’s no one-size-fits-all; it’s very context-sensitive.”
Different cities, as it stands, and different places have different rules regarding the sharing economy services. DuPuis mentioned Dallas, where insurance regulations are more strictly enforced on drivers with the sharing companies; two tiers of insurance are required for commercial drivers, something Uber has scooted around in the past, fluctuating between calling themselves a tech company or a transportation service, based on which benefits them more in a particular situation. In addition, often airports have strict rules when it comes to non-taxi transportation services.
And rules on sharing economy companies don’t stop on the ground: the Uber business model is now applicable to private jets, through the company Flytenow. The company is currently in a lawsuit case pending with the U.S. Court of Appeals regarding whether or not the pilots are regarded as commercial operatives and thus skirting FAA regulations.
The most interesting part of this emerging sharing economy is how to regulate it. According to attorney at Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation in Phoenix, Jon Riches, another panelist at the Chicago convention, none of the sharing economies have tangible work. “Uber owns no vehicles. Facebook creates no content. Alibaba has no inventory. Airbnb has no real estate. Something interesting is happening,” Riches said.