notice by the business and security tags I have given it.
Roadie is a start-up whose tagline is, “Discover the invisible shipping network.” The idea is, there are 250 million private vehicle trips per day, with a billion square feet of otherwise-unused cargo space. Some of them could be matched up peer-peer and make everyone happier. I read this Buzzfeed article and started to think like a hacker… how would I break this, if I were evil?
Disclaimer: Some of these things are illegal. Some of them are immoral. Roadie may well have already thought to include countermeasures against some that they would not, for good reason, publicize.
An obvious first one is, I tell Roadie I want to send, let’s say, a stand mixer to my buddy in Harrisburg who’s taking up baking. The driver and I meet, I give her a neatly taped-up Kitchen-Aid box that weighs about 35 pounds. She drives it from Rochester to Harrisburg and delivers it uneventfully to Bob. It’s a good thing she’s a mild-mannered driver in an inconspicuous Chevy because she just delivered 15 Kg of high-quality weed across state lines. Since Bob and I both used burner phones to set up the endpoints of the transaction, Roadie will not be of much help identifying anyone but the innocent driver.
Never mind legal trouble, some cargoes can be just plain trouble. Roadie has a list of restricted items and materials similar to the one you see at the post office, but it’s not clear how this can be enforced. Sealed boxes may be opened by postal inspectors at random but Roadie drivers should not be similarly empowered. Otherwise, the prospect of a Roadie driver pawing through the stuff being delivered might be seriously off-putting to prospective shippers.
For an even more obvious ploy, shipping an item with a substantial declared value opens up Roadie to all kinds of insurance issues, especially given the informality of the hand-offs at either end of the trip.
Receivers and senders are going to be strangers to the drivers, and strangers are terrifying, in our cable-news-fear-mongered society. To this end, Roadie has wisely teamed up with Waffle House to create a ready-made network of public meetup spots for exchanges. More safety measures to protect Roadie and its drivers are needed, and as I mentioned above, some may already exist.
I expect Roadie to attract the same kind of opposition to its business model as the hotel and taxi industries are already lavishing on Airbnb, Uber and Lyft. To some extent, I like seeing old crufty business models being disrupted. However, a certain amount of what looks like fluff in those models really does protect the participants and the public. We have a baby and a tub of bathwater here; some care is advisable.