Peer-To-Peer (P2P) Carsharing: Understanding Early Markets, Social Dynamics, and Behavioral Impacts

Peer-To-Peer (P2P) Carsharing: Understanding Early Markets, Social Dynamics, and Behavioral Impacts

This report explores peer-to-peer carsharing, its impacts on travel behavior, and how it can be incorporated with other shared mobility services.

"Shared mobility services have now become firmly integrated into urban transportation systems across the globe. Carsharing, bikesharing, ridesourcing or transportation network companies(TNCs), and other systems now offer urban travelers access to transportation services that had long been previously only possible through personal vehicle ownership. Carsharing is arguably the pioneer mode of the sharing economy, given it ushered in a new way of thinking and access to the private automobile in the 20th century. Since its North American inception in Montreal in 1994, carsharing has undergone several waves of innovation. With each innovation, carsharing has deployed new functionality, technology, and business models. One of the more prominent innovations in carsharing has been peer-to-peer (P2P) carsharing, which enables individuals to leverage information technology to share their personal vehicles with others in their area. The P2P carsharing industry has gone through some evolution of its own since its initial establishment. In 2017, we estimated that there were over 2.9 million individuals participating in P2P carsharing, making use of a combined shared fleet of over 131,336 P2P vehicles across six operators in North America. Not surprisingly, P2P carsharing services benefit from the operational history and marketing of business-to-consumer (B2C) carsharing companies (round-trip and one-way services). While P2P carsharing does exist in lower-density areas, the initial markets have been primarily in dense urban environments where B2C carsharing companies also currently operate, resulting in similar user populations. Since launching, operators have begun to hybridize their services with dedicated carsharing fleets, as well. This provides more certainty that vehicles will be available to meet demand, as dedicated fleets would not go “offline” when owners are using their vehicles."

Key findings

"The study results suggest that extensively expanding [the P2P carsharing] model outside the urban core may be more challenging than initially expected, where acceptance and use of carsharing encounters a number of barriers. This study also shows that such access enables some households to reduce their vehicle ownership, and more prominently, avoid the need to acquire a vehicle."

"P2P carsharing further provides access to vehicles that are enjoyable to drive and potentially more challenging to access through traditional car rental arrangements(e.g., Tesla and other high-end brands). At a more fundamental level, P2P carsharing may have provided a means for people to access unique vehicles for long-distance travel, while at the same time permitting hosts to reduce ownership costs and/or monetize otherwise idle assets. Thus, P2P carsharing is a form of shared mobility that enables behavioral changes among some members that advance positive social and environmental goals."

"Looking forward, P2P carsharing’s reception,benefits,drawbacks, and public policies relate to the coming deployment of Automated Vehicles (AVs). Shared AV (SAV) models include two forms of automated P2P carsharing. The first possibility is individually owned AVs made available for on-demand use by a third-party operator. Similar to P2P carsharing in its current form, this model would entail a private operator managing financial transactions. The second, more untested scenario is P2P AV carsharing with decentralized operations, which means that guests would make use of some form of accessible and open source reservation and payment system (possibly involving blockchain) to share individually owned AVs."

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