Renting out private cars like a car2go? Yes, it’s possible. In technical terms, it’s quite simple. You just install an Internet-enabled module in the vehicle interior to enable GPS tracking and communication with your smartphone. As soon as the module is activated, your car is ready to hire. It’s child’s play, just like AirBnB. As the vehicle owner, you decide on the rental period and publish the dates, along with photos and details of the vehicle, on a social media platform. Here, the vehicle location is shown on the map and a dedicated profile created. Potential renters surf the profiles and send booking enquiries. Once usage has been confirmed, the renter can use a smartphone app to open the vehicle during the usage period. This principle is so easy that it raises the question of why it isn’t possible to open AirBnB apartments using an app.
Disappearing sales arguments.
The ability to lock and unlock the vehicle using an app makes life much easier for both the vehicle renter and the vehicle owner. And it is tantamount to a declaration of war. About 10 years after the launch of free-floating car sharing, its key competitive advantages are vanishing. Drivy Open, a provider of car rental technology, recorded 10,000 app-based rentals in a single year. Although this figure shows that keyless peer-to-peer car sharing is still in its infancy, it is a technology that will be as integral a part of cars as ABS or airbags. After all, the benefits speak for themselves. Car owners can reduce a portion of their costs and save time, as the rental is managed online and the car is insured for the entire rental period. And it is not only easy for renters to find cars, but they can choose from a wide range of vehicles – instead of just the same old rental cars.
Mobility made by Daimler.
Daimler AG recognised the potential of car sharing at an early stage. All the way back in 2008, the company launched the free-floating car-sharing service car2go; in 2013, CAR2SHARE joined forces with Autonetzer. Working with this start-up, the company brought private vehicle owners and potential renters together on a car-sharing site, with Autonetzer looking after the running and marketing of the CAR2SHARE online platform. This summer, Daimler AG took over start-up flightcar and announced a partnership with start-up Getaround at the Paris Motor Show – here is the link to the brand-new Mercedes-Benz page on the Getaround website. Yet another pilot project was launched in Munich on 14 November: Croove. The platform is open to all brands. The real USP, however, is that the vehicles come with a collection and delivery service.
Share and conquer.
In Germany, the interest in car sharing remains strong: roughly 730,000 people currently use car-sharing services in Germany – with 8.15 million people interested in the idea of sharing a car. Since the launch of free-floating car sharing, two market leaders have emerged: car2go (Daimler) and DriveNow (BMW) with a total of approx. 6,500 vehicles.
These free-floating services are now confronted with peer-to-peer rivals. The new big players are the Rocket Internet start-up Ridelink, the Carunity platform launched by Opel, the Aachen-based start-up tamyca and the French start-up Drivy. In 2015, Drivy bought German market leader Autonetzer. When you consider that Drivy alone boasted 11,000 registered cars in 2015 and has now achieved technological equality with the market leaders, it is clear that there will be further shifts in the car-sharing market.
Free-floating car-sharing services still have a decisive edge: minute-by-minute charges represent a good-value alternative, especially for short urban journeys of less than 30 minutes. Finding parking spaces is still a problem, and ride-sharing rivals such as Uber and Waze are not resting on their laurels. It is only a matter of time before what has long been established in San Francisco also becomes a common feature of European cities.
Free-Floating vs. Peer-to-Peer.
In terms of longer vehicle rentals and areas without free-floating car-sharing services, however, it seems likely that private peer-to-peer car sharing will prevail. After all, a long-term rental is much better value here, and users are not limited to the provider’s area of business.
But, hand on heart, there are some things – like your toothbrush – that you just wouldn’t lend. Would you see your car in the same way? Tesla, for example, bars its customers from hiring out its cars via Uber or Lyft. Instead, the company is working to develop its own Tesla car-sharing network. Would you rent out your car via a peer-to-peer car-sharing service?