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The evolution of the car-sharing platform

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A big trend to come out of recent years is car-sharing. What once started as a small idea has now grown into an incredibly popular transport option and has gained a reputation as a solution for our transportation problems.

The term “car sharing” can cover a few different models. For instance, there’s the ride sharing version, which includes traditional taxi firms or companies like Uber, where users are driven instead of driving themselves. However, there are also rental companies like Avis or Enterprise who lend out vehicles from their fleets to consumers, particularly when they travel abroad. Then, there are peer-to-peer car-sharing companies like hiyacar who allow private owners to rent to other individuals, without the need for a third party. 

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So big is the potential of car-sharing, even manufacturers are keen to get in on it. In 2011, BMW launched its DriveNow scheme which allowed users access to BMW and MINI vehicles exclusively. Likewise, Car2Go was Daimler AG’s foray into the car-sharing market, and allowed users free parking inside a designated “home area”. Recently, these two platforms have actually merged to create Share Now, a car-sharing company that will be co-owned by BMW and Daimler. If nothing else, this shows the extent to which car-sharing has really exploded in popularity. 

Though different interpretations, what these schemes all have in common is that they enable a person access to a network of nearby vehicles whenever they need it, whilst only asking them to pay for the time they require – this, in essence, is the basics of car-sharing.

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It’s important to note that car-sharing is by no means a new idea. We can trace a recognisable form of peer-to-peer vehicle sharing back at least as far as the 1940s, when a housing co-op in Switzerland started a scheme allowing those who couldn’t afford their own car to simply share one. More formal business arrangements of this type didn’t come around until the 60s and 70s, during which we saw the implementation of the short-lived ProcoTip system in France and the first share a car service in the UK, Green Cars. 

That said, the industry didn’t really flourish until the 80s and 90s with the introduction of Carsharing Portland in the US. This system started as an informal arrangement between a few friends to share a single car, but slowly grew and inspired the emergence of various car-sharing services in the 2000s. 

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It’s possible to put car-sharing’s increase in popularity down to the existence of new and improved technology. Not only has this allowed more widespread awareness of car-sharing’s existence, increasing the number of both lenders and users, it’s also enabled an overall more enjoyable and convenient user experience. The availability of one-way sharing, meaning the car drop off and pick up locations can be different, has given the system a much wider appeal. Not to mention the existence of GPS, keyless entry and digital fleet management tools ensuring a more accurate and efficient experience for car sharers. 

The most value for users, however, has got to be the lower mileage and lower costs associated with sharing. Car-sharing is an alternative to traditional car ownership and all it entails; choosing to share a car rather than own one results in lower total expenditure because there are no MOT costs and no paying for fuel or maintenance. Additionally, for peer-to-peer schemes, ownership costs can at least be contributed to by the extra income earned through private owners being able to rent out their cars when they’re not in use. 

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The popularity of the platform in urban areas, where users are on-the-go and often without the need for a full-time personal vehicle, just goes to show how much the convenience and fluidity of car-sharing appeals. This comes down to the fact that users don’t want the hassle of traditional car hiring, particularly if they only need the car on a one-off, short-term basis. In situations like this, being able to source a car with just your smartphone is an invaluable power to have. 

As with most industries, sustainability is the focus for the future of car-sharing. Nowadays, we’re even more aware of our impact on the environment and the problems being caused by pollution, and people are increasingly looking towards car-sharing as the greener option for car travel. With the availability of electric and hybrid vehicles, it seems logical that car-sharing platforms will find more ways to integrate eco-friendly measures into their operations in the future. 

With more technologies constantly being introduced alongside growing interest in the industry, there’s no doubt car-sharing companies will also find ways of incorporating cutting-edge technology into their models as well. Right now, it’s driverless vehicles that looks to be the direction in which the industry is headed and, given the advancements made already, a future where you can use your smartphone to summon a car that will drive itself around doesn’t seem far off at all. 

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