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Would you take a lift with a stranger?

Lee Woodcock | 26 Feb 2016 | Comments

Would you take a lift with a stranger? The answer appears to be increasingly yes!

However, why is it taking place now?  What are the drivers that make this such a thriving opportunity that it's attracting significant investment and increasing in popularity year on year? Just looking at the growth of number of vehicles available globally for car sharing, in 2010 it was almost 32,000 and in 2014 this jumped to over 92,000.  Taking a look how some European neighbours compare:

Car sharing in Europe

I live in the UK, and though we are very technology aware and innovation friendly, I am not sure why we are lagging behind in this area.  Perhaps it’s a cultural thing! I guess we struggle to talk to people on the underground so jumping in a car with a complete stranger may be a bit of a challenge for us?

In an excellent article last year by Lauren Hepler she sets out why we are only just at the beginning of this car sharing journey, alongside some of the key movers and shakers and the type of business models that are emerging.  It certainly shows the private sector is investing in developing propositions to meet user demand with the range of business models that Lauren outlines.

One of the key issues for many is the cost of car ownership and the research supports this. For example, Zipcar research found that 53% of millennials consider car ownership out of their reach. In fact, more than half said they would drive less if other transportation options were available, such as public transportation, car sharing, and ride sharing and 35 percent said they are actively looking for alternatives to car. 

This is clearly a threat to car makers and they are making moves not to be left behind, BMW with its DriveNow proposition and the investment by General Motors in Lyft, or Moovel, as part of Mercedes-Benz, to mention just a few.

So, car sharing feels a fast moving and very exciting sector of Intelligent Mobility but I am left wondering about the narrow focus on the availability of these services, focused on cities, millennials and those who are privileged enough to own premium cars.  I can see they are an important part of the modal mix so how can we make them available for all sectors of society?  

I think there needs to be a business model developed that optimises the vehicle (after all, the average car spends 96.5% of its life parked) that provides a range of services throughout the day and reduces pressure on budgets for the public sector.

I call this proposition Total Transport; community focused transport that cuts across public sector budget silos yet is delivered by the private sector. This optimises the use of their assets and therefore means they can provide services at a reduced cost compared to the public sector. Car sharing solutions could provide the opportunity for this to be realised, and form part of the overall proposition for Mobility as a Service. 

So, my prediction for 2016 for car sharing is that there will be at least one brave private sector operator that develops a solution that not only provides mobility services to millennials but also work in partnership with a city to provide social services such as home to school transport, journeys to day centres, demand responsive transport, etc.

What do you think?

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