Friday, November 16, 2007

The Car-Sharing Revolution

This week the LA Times published a very thoughtful essay about the Flex-Zip merger and the future of carsharing from LA writer Matthew DeBord. I'm not sure of his history, but it appears that DeBord has been the author of several of thoughtful book reviews and other articles.

After a brief history of carsharing, DeBord makes some excellent points about the future of transportation and carsharing. Rather than summarize, I'd like to quote the last 3 paragraphs in full:

"Still, car sharing, turbocharged by the Internet, has let the genie of mobility systems out of the bottle. Why bother owning the entire apparatus of movement when you can instead simply check in and out of the transportation matrix? In many cases, freedom from vehicle ownership should allow people to put their money into investments that do not lose value as soon as they are driven off the dealer's lot.

"Over time, regardless of whether the Zip-Flex merger succeeds or fails, transportation systems will begin to displace the crude mechanics of individual ownership. Anyone who leases a car has already gotten a taste, albeit with no financial upside. Fractional-ownership plans for a private jet are the same sort of deal. (Imagine if someone paid to drive your car, thereby monetizing the many idle hours your vehicle spends costing you cash.) Currently, however, our larger transportation grid is barely integrated. Airlines don't talk to railroads; NetJets doesn't talk to Metrolink.

"Individual ownership of something as complicated and labor intensive as transportation gradually will be supplanted by collective ownership of (or membership in) a vast system that provides abundant mobility options with all of the carbon-credit upsides and none of the congestion-charge headaches. The personal automobile may continue to have a place of pride in the driveway, but it won't be at the top of the food chain anymore. Transportation will finally achieve true mass distribution. It will become a commodity. Every innovation, from electric commuter cars to jet packs to personal submarines and rocket-assisted rickshaws, will make it less expensive and more democratic. And in the end, we will have car sharing, whatever becomes of it, to thank for cracking the code."

You can reaed the full op-ed piece here .