The aim of innovation is to always improve the status quo, and transportation has seen many different changes that have led to vast improvements. In recent years, the concept of car sharing has begun to gain some traction. While the idea certainly has its applications and merits, the question still remains – will car sharing pose a serious threat to individual car ownership?
If you’re unfamiliar with the process of car sharing, the Community Transportation Association of America has a definition: “Car sharing is a process that allows individuals to combine resources to access a fleet of vehicles that is larger than what they could access on an individual basis… A car sharing organization (CSO) is made up of individual members who join resources to purchase and maintain one or more cars for use by members of the organization. These organizations place car sharing lots or stations at different locations in a community, where people can use the vehicles for as little as an hour or less or for longer periods of time.” Many car sharing companies require memberships, and approximately 1.6 million Americans are car sharing members.
When does car sharing make sense? The average car share user lives in a city, does not have a typical daily commute, and does not have a family. There are two main reasons people are attracted to car sharing: affordability and environmental friendliness. With both new and used car prices at all-time highs, the concept of car sharing becomes more reasonable. When considering car sharing’s benefit to the environment, Clean Techies believes “Temporary use of the vehicle equates to minimum fuel emissions and minimum impact on the environment.” This value proposition is especially attractive to Millennials, who are the primary drivers behind this trend.
Recent surveys have shown, however, that car ownership is still a major priority for people of all ages. According to Ad Week, 94% of adults ages 35+, and even 87% of Millennials, say that their car is a significant part of their lives. Of all respondents, 92% owned or leased a vehicle. While the idea of car sharing has grown in popularity, only 22% of respondents had heard of the ride-hailing service Uber and one-third were familiar with Zipcar, a popular car sharing company. The findings of Ad Week’s survey show that personal car ownership is not going away anytime soon, even among young people.
The concept of car sharing is by no means a new idea. Some companies have been around for over a decade. And, while the growing demand for car sharing shows that consumers are hungry for affordable, environmentally responsible transportation, personal car ownership remains the most logical and affordable option for the vast majority of Americans. The Community Transportation Association of American concluded its report by saying “For those who need a car to travel to work daily, then a private car may be a more convenient means of transportation.” The future of innovation within the transportation industry will most likely lie in combining the convenience of a private car with the affordability and environmental responsibility that car sharing can bring.