Car sharing comes of age

Who knew that I could become so trendy when it comes to cars? Research has shown that more teens are postponing getting their driver’s license and in some cases forgoing buying a car. For many when they turn 16 it isn’t the driver’s test, but the application to get their own Uber account, that signals their newfound independence.

I have a mostly hate affair when it comes to cars. I bought my first car at age 30 when I moved to LA and couldn’t get around without one there. Now that I live in St. Louis, my wife and I share one.

Since my office is literally across the street from my home, I generally don’t need a car for most workdays: I bike or take transit to meetings, or to share a ride with a generous co-worker when a meeting is held out in the suburbs. And when I need to get to the airport, we have decent light rail stops near my house and at the terminal to make it very convenient.

When my daughter lived in Denver, she showed me how easy it was to use Car2Go, a service that she made good use of since she didn’t own a car. So I signed up with the service just to see what was involved, even though it isn’t offered in my city. Last week I also got my membership in a car share program that I can actually use with a shared vehicle just down the street from my home and office.  That is one of the issues of car sharing services: they have to be nearby when you need them, otherwise you won’t use them.

Now that my daughter lives in Israel, cars are uber-expensive, and she is making do with renting a car and taking transit. But mostly she walks. She has yet to own her own car, and is part of a large and growing cohort. There are many 20-somethings whom I know that are car-free by choice, whatever the reason.

What is even more remarkable about this trendlet is how it has attracted a strange collection of bedfellows. Back when I was in grad school, I don’t think I ever would thought it possible that Bill Ford would give a keynote at Mobile World Congress in 2012 that supported this sharing-centric economy and rebrand his grandfather’s car company as a mobility provider.

Having spent some time with Mr. Ford, I believe his views aren’t posturing, and he really believes that the days of one person/one vehicle are coming to a close.

Since he gave that speech, the sharing-centric economy has taken off. You can now share cars (Uber and Lyft), share your spare room (AirBnB) or just your sofa (CouchSurfing) and share your desk at the growing number of co-working spaces everywhere. But when you combine these sharing technologies with mobile and cloud you have more than just a trend, you have a real movement, as Arlo once sang about. And this movement is all about making it easier for more people to work from home or their local coffee shop, to easily share documents without having an IT-owned resource in between, and to do a lot more work from their non-PC devices such as tablets than ever before.

When I think about what has changed from when I first entered the workforce back in the 1970s, it is pretty remarkable. Having someone work from home even one day a week was a major ordeal back then and thought more elitist than acceptable. Clouds were things that produced rain and shade, and sharing wasn’t caring. Although back then as now, you could easily carpool across the Oakland Bay Bridge every morning if you knew where to stand.  Now we pay routinely $13 or more for a round trip on some NYC bridges and tunnels.

While I doubt that the teen driver license acquisition ritual will become extinct, it is nice to see more teens opting out and sharing their rides. Of course, a remake of “American Graffiti” where Curt and Steve are cruising the strip in the back of their Ubers and the Wolfman has his own Spotify channel might not quite become the cult classic of the original, but then few remakes ever do.

One thought on “Car sharing comes of age

  1. Like you and your daughter I walk, bike and ride to work and meetings but, recently, I have found that a folding bike is a great complement to buses and trains. For many trips they are more effective than car sharing IMHO.
    Those were very geeky a few years back but I think they have come of age. I ended up with this one: http://www.strida.com/ which has no chain so no stains.

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