While all the news is about ride services (Uber’s ballooning $40 billion valuation and sometimes high-handed behavior does tend to make headlines), a related innovation — carsharing — is pushing forward just as fast.
And that’s important, because as transportation advocate Susan Shaheen of the University of California, Berkeley points out, carsharing reduces ownership and use of automobiles, while ride services are just digitally summoned taxis. She cites a recent study of 7,000 carsharers, in which 50 percent said they’d either sold a car or didn’t buy one because of carsharing.
And according to Paul DeLong, the chief marketing officer for Car2Go, a Daimler-owned carsharing service with extensive operations in Europe and the U.S., “Thirty percent of our members say, yes, we are shedding vehicles because we believe in carsharing.”
Brooklyn isn't waiving parking meter rules, but Smart cars (like this one in Brooklyn) can fit where no other vehicle can go. (Photo: Car2Go)
So does Daimler, since it’s been expanding Car2Go rapidly. DeLong told me that I’d interviewed him five years ago, when the U.S. service was only in Austin, Texas, and had just achieved 10,000 members. “It’s crazy, we were ecstatic about that,” he said. “But now we’re announcing our 1 millionth member.” Car2Go has become the world's largest carsharing service, and could expand into Asia and other global locations.
Car2Go, which is also adding carsharing apps, is now in San Diego (where the 400 Smart cars are all the electric drive version), Washington, D.C., Columbus, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Portland and Eugene in Oregon, and Seattle, plus several cities in Canada, including the single largest city in the North American network, Vancouver — where there are 70,000 members. Oddly, the service there got off to an inauspicious start in early 2011 after Stanley Cup rioting left several of its Smart cars burned out. “It was all because the Canucks lost,” DeLong said.
The Vancouver riot of January 2011, after the Canucks lost to the Bruins. They also burned Car2Go Smart cars. (Photo: Matt Gibson/flickr)
The most recent Car2Go outpost is 400 cars in the hip enclave of Brooklyn, where the company started operations in October. So far, it’s all regular Smart cars, but Electric Drives may be added — as they have been in Portland, Vancouver and Austin. In some cities, Car2Go has worked with the local department of transportation to avoid having to pay the parking meters, but as in Montreal and Toronto it hasn’t been able to work that out in Brooklyn.
“We’re not stopping with Brooklyn,” DeLong said. “We’re going to add many more cities; there are a lot more to go. Our service gives people more flexibility to take trips on their own time, when they need to go, while feeling safe about it."
So far at least, Car2Go has avoided the kinds of conflicts that have plagued Uber, which tends to just plop itself down in a new city without much advance notice. The service has been banned in Germany, and is now duking it out in Portland, Oregon. Here’s video on that:
Related on MNN:
- 7 carsharing and carpooling iPhone apps
- Taxicabs incensed over California legalizing ridesharing
- How to use your phone to share a ride