Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What's ahead in carsharing for 2012?

I think 2012 is going to be a landmark year for carsharing in a number of areas.  And judging from some early developments, it appears some companies are already acting on their new year's resolutions.  But crystal ball gazing is not an exact science and I don't have any insider information, so what follows are some "likely guesses" for the upcoming year.

P2P Gets Traction — For the past year RelayRides, Getaround and Wheelz have been getting their systems and technology tuned up in North America and I expect to see them really start rolling during  upcoming year.  Getaround has already staked out Portland as it's next city and RelayRides has indicated expansion in the Boston area is one their radar.  But it's worth remembering that the potential of P2P CS has barely been scratched in California, much less 7 or 8 other major cities.

Zipcar's Year to Prove Themselves — Meanwhile, on the "classic" carsharing front, Zipcar has been fairly quiet about what it's going to do now that it's gotten its finances in better shape and more or less completed the integration of Streetcar into their brand.  That is, until last week when they announced the completion of the Avancar (Barcelona) deal and the hiring of a European General Manager, with German credentials — suggesting possible target for their next move in "great game".

"One-way" Carsharing On a Roll — The two players in the one-way/on-demand carsharing, Daimler's car2go and BMW's Drive Now, look like they will continue to keep rolling into new cities. On this side of the Atlantic, will car2go finally crack the nut on the long-rumored Washington, DC operation (a perfect place for it) or is the city's dysfunctional parking policy going to continue to constrain carsharing?  No matter what happens in DC, there are other cities in the US and Canada ideal for one-way/on-demand.  I expect we'll also get a glimpse of the relocation and recharging requirements from their San Diego all-Electric Drive operation.  And on the European (and hopefully North American) front we can finally expect to see the start of some serious 3rd party research on the effects of car2go on urban mobility patterns of users.

Continued Double Digit Expansion of Carsharing Worldwide — Even in automobility-centric North America, the trends continue to indicate an increased interest in alternatives to car ownership for city dwellers, which carsharing companies are ready for.  And who knows, in addition to just-launched Miami, I expect we'll see major operations in a couple of new cities during 2012?  Membership in the one-way/on-demand companies alone will be substantial part of it.  Carsharing has really taken off in Japan in he past fews with the participation of some major players in the space.  And China is taking its first steps in carsharing, as well.  South America, hello?

I'd mention two other trends that I think will help push carsharing along: the launch of bikesharing services in many major cities (it's becoming a "must have" for cities and getting people out of their cars and onto bikes for short urban trips ought to open the eyes of many toward a car-lite lifestyle.  And improved ridesharing systems, including dynamic ridesharing, may finally demonstrate its potential to fill empty seats on the commute trips - further getting people out of their (own) cars.

Here's to 2012!