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How Car-sharing Will Change Transportation Forever

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Would you like to do away with all the headaches of car ownership but retain the ability to use a vehicle whenever you need one? That’s what the idea of car sharing is all about. There are dozens of companies in Europe, Asia and even the U.S. that are offering cars for short-term rental at very low prices.

I wondered whether car sharing would make sense where I live, in a large U.S. city, but hadn’t heard anything about it, and didn’t even know the arrangement existed.

When venturing out to see whether an “average” U.S. city like Phoenix had car sharing, I was pleasantly surprised. Even though the Southwest is usually the last place to get in on major world trends like this, Phoenix actually has three organizations that offer short-term car rental within the confines of its large downtown area. That was a shock to me, because if car sharing is successful in a place like Arizona, it certainly can catch on anywhere else.

Here are a few other key facts, all of them news to me, that I discovered when I began looking at the topic of car sharing. It seems like the concept really can cut down on most of the expenses associated with owning a private car.

Facts About Car Sharing

The graphic below contains some of the key points about car sharing, mainly that it is very affordable, helps the environment, and is extremely simple in how it works.

  • According to California’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center (CTSRC), car sharing fleets and membership organizations are growing very quickly all over the world. Apparently, people like the idea of eliminating insurance, storage, cleaning, registration, and maintenance costs that go with owning a traditional car. That makes perfect sense. So far, so good. But what are the other advantages of the system, and how fast is it growing?
  • Worldwide, about 5 million people belong to car sharing clubs. Those clubs charge a small monthly fee and offer very low usage fees when members need to have a car for a few minutes, hours or days.
  • There are currently about 100,000 cars owned by car sharing clubs, which means that the average global “member to car” ratio is about 50 to 1. What’s that mean? Well, in a typical car sharing club, 50 people are sharing a single vehicle. That’s a lot different than the ratio in my family! Our user to vehicle ratio is 1 to 1. That leaves plenty of room for improvement though.
  • Car sharing usage rates have approximately doubled every two years since 2006, and are expected to continue to do as well or better for the next decade. Now that the arrangement is no longer completely new and unknown, the growth rates could exceed most statistical predictions.
  • People who belong to car sharing clubs say that the number one reason they joined is to save money. Car sharing is able to spread car ownership costs around, and with 50 people using one vehicle, there’s no big worry about repairs and oil changes.
  • Car sharing means fewer cars on the road. Indeed, some of the urban areas where clubs are commonplace have seen significant reductions in rush hour traffic jams.
  • Other benefits include less air pollution, less of a need for giant parking garages, lower road maintenance costs for communities, and more efficient usage of fuel.
  • The aforementioned experts at CTSRC think car sharing will become a major global industry by the middle of the next decade, in 2025.

Don’t Drive. Read!

Here are some of the best books about car sharing.

Democratic by Design: How Carsharing, Co-ops, and Community Land Trusts Are Reinventing America: One of the classics on this topic, Democratic by Design delves into the behind-the-scenes social trends that gave birth to car sharing and other community-based movements in the U.S. and elsewhere. Author Gabriel Metcalf’s insightful examination of American urban society is interesting for all sorts of reasons, not just as an analysis of recent social trends. He explains some very complicated historic processes in simple language and makes it as interesting as a top-notch spy novel.

Curbing Cars: America’s Independence From The Auto Industry: This book is a clever look at the potential of car sharing in the U.S. and why the trend, just now in its infancy, has the power to completely transform modern society. Getting free from the clutches of the automotive industry is the central theme of the book.

The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing: Here is an amazing look at the future of “sharing” in general, and how this concept, already obvious in car sharing networks, will come to other industries and change them as well. The Mesh is an endlessly interesting read, and offers a realistic look at the not-so-distant future.

The Shared Future of Car Usage

There’s really no doubt about it: car sharing is the wave of the future. The only question is the exact definition of “future.” In Europe and Asia it’s already catching on very quickly, while the vast terrain and embedded social ideas about car ownership in the U.S. have prevented the trend from taking off.

The idea of car sharing can’t be separated from the concept of autonomous vehicles, because the two trends actually go hand in hand. As the autonomous car frenzy gathers steam, there is no denying that the future of private automobile ownership, as we know it, is likely to be changed forever.

When people are able to use a shared car for those times they feel the need for a private mode of transportation, and are able to hop a ride in a driverless taxi when they need a lift but don’t feel like driving, the world will be a totally different place than it is today.

I, for one, am looking forward to the future, not having to worry about mechanics, crowded highways, and all the other expenses that go with owning a private vehicle. No more car payments, insurance bills, repair expenses, high fuel costs and the rest of the headaches.

What about you? Let us know your thoughts on this intriguing issue in the comments section below, and/or check out our Facebook page and tell us how you feel about car sharing. Is it really the wave of the future or just a short-term fad? Will the U.S. ever buy into the idea of shared vehicles? We would enjoy hearing from you. Happy driving.

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