In the United States, there are over 250 million cars that sit idle in parking lots and driveways 93 percent of the time. If only a fraction of these existing resources were shared, it would have a positive impact on individual travel behavior, our communities, and the environment.
Eighteen months ago, I was in the inaugural class of Singularity University where Larry Page and SU’s founders challenged my class to develop projects that could positively impact a billion people in 10 years. Fellow students focused on disaster response, housing, and technology infrastructure in developing countries.
Our group was struck by the fact that the globe has more than one billion cars today and the total number is expected to double within 20 years. We saw an opportunity to create a better future; one where people and communities utilize vehicles more effectively. We leveraged advancements in smartphone technology and existing social networks to pioneer a platform for peer-to-peer car sharing called Getaround.
While traditional car-sharing companies like Zipcar started the car sharing revolution in the U.S., the peer-to-peer car-sharing model takes sharing, community, and sustainable living to the next level. Peer-to-peer car-sharing companies like Getaround promise to revolutionize how people view personal vehicles, and membership in these systems are growing.
I know the value and benefits of car sharing first-hand. Although I love driving, I've never owned a car. I’ve simply never found it difficult to get by without one. In college, I lived on a transit route close to campus and informally practiced car sharing with friends. Even after college, I would often walk, bike, or car share.
It was during this time that the many benefits of car sharing became apparent. I saved money on car payments and saved time on maintenance, all while doing less harm to the environment. Sharing a car when I needed one meant my day-to-day greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled stay low. As an added benefit, no emissions were produced to manufacture a car for me!
So, how does car sharing connect to the New Sharing Economy? The argument has been made that the New Economy will be a sharing economy that connects people and enables individuals to utilize countless existing resources including space and physical assets. It will incorporate sustainable living and help grow a greater sense of community.
Car sharing is an integral part of this transformation because it's a powerful leverage point for the sharing revolution. Since an individual's car is such a personal asset, creating a positive perception of sharing through the carsharing experience will facilitate greater acceptance of sharing in other areas.
The environmental benefits of car sharing are clear. In North America, one shared vehicle can take 6 to 33 privately owned vehicles off the road. Lowering vehicle ownership reduces the amount that people drive. In one study, vehicle miles traveled by car-sharing members dropped by 67 percent while they were engaged in a car-sharing program. They were able to maintain their standard of mobility and their convenience of transportation (two success criteria for car sharing in general), while actually getting access to a wider variety of cars.
The dramatic drop in vehicle miles traveled has an immense environmental impact – one study shows car sharing resulted in a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions ranging from 39 to 64 percent.
Peer-to-peer car-sharing solutions like Getaround offer an innovative and risk-free way to share your car and participate in the New Economy. As a car owner, you can make money by sharing your car when you aren’t using it. People in need of a car can get access to one nearby. The peer-to-peer model is the most scalable option and will spread the benefits of carsharing to more people than ever before.
This new model of car sharing also requires new technology. Similar to other solutions, Getaround has developed carsharing technologies such as the Getaround Carkit, which means the car owner doesn’t have to meet the renter with the keys. The soon to be released Getaround smartphone application will make it easy for owners to manage rentals and for individuals to rent a car in three easy steps.
Getaround provides insurance, support for the community, and facilitates payment. We aim to make sharing fun and easy while increasing people's awareness of car sharing. Core to our platform is community and finding ways to establish trust between near strangers. To reinforce this, renters and owners build a reputation through ratings on past rentals.
Many traditional car-sharing services (such as Zipcar) use a fleet model that’s intrinsically limited. While fleet-based carsharing providers can offer a few cars at select locations, Getaround's peer-to-peer model allows for every vehicle in a community to be a shared vehicle. This illustrates the potential of peer-to-peer car sharing in the Bay Area and beyond.
Peer-to-peer car-sharing programs, like Getaround, can help create a sense of trust and community around sharing. This will lead to higher percentages of people willing to share, while having a positive impact on the environment.