How Peer-to-Peer Carsharing Is Reshaping Our Relationship with Auto Mobility: Early Understanding and Four Key Findings

Move Forward
May 30 · 5 min read

Written by Susan Shaheen

This article was originally published on April 17, 2018

Peer-to-peer (P2P) carsharing is an online marketplace that connects people interested in sharing their vehicles with people who are looking for short-term vehicle access. The companies that comprise this marketplace provide the organizational resources needed to make the transaction possible such as: 1) an online platform, 2) customer support, 3) automobile insurance, and 4) vehicle technology. Members access vehicles through a direct key transfer from the “host” (or owner) to the “guest” (or driver) or through operator-installed, in-vehicle technology that enables unattended access. As of January 2017, 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, according to our recent Carsharing Market Outlook: Winter 2018.

Our March 2018 study titled: Peer-To-Peer (P2P) Carsharing: Understanding Early Markets, Social Dynamics, and Behavioral Impacts provides insights into how early P2P carsharing has affected the travel behavior of vehicle guests and hosts. We found that P2P carsharing encourages some households to reduce, delay, or even avoid a vehicle purchase. Additionally, the services offer individuals the opportunity to drive a variety of vehicle types. P2P carsharing also enables hosts to reduce their ownership costs, monetize otherwise idle assets, or both.

Based on a user survey of 1,151 guests and hosts from three U.S. P2P carsharing companies, we documented four key findings:

1. Vehicle Ownership: Most P2P carsharing members (46%) were from carless households that joined P2P carsharing to gain additional mobility. Another 20% enrolled to earn money sharing their vehicle, while 14% of respondents indicated that they held off on a vehicle purchase due to their carsharing membership. A small percentage (3%) noted that they had sold a vehicle because of their membership.

2. Ease of Use: Forty-eight percent of respondents felt that P2P carsharing was easier than expected to use compared to 15% who said that vehicle sharing was more challenging to use than anticipated.

3. Changes to Travel Modes: Most respondents reported no major change in their public transit use as a result of P2P carsharing, with 9% increasing bus ridership and 10% decreasing it. Similarly, 7% of respondents reported increasing rail use, while 8% reported a decrease. Taxi use showed a net decline among all respondents. Survey respondents that use ridesourcing or transportation network companies, such as Lyft and Uber, were split — as 9% reported an increase and 9% noted a decrease. In contrast, carpooling showed a net increase (6%) among the sample, suggesting that P2P carsharing users were likely traveling with multiple occupants.

4. Super Sharers: In addition, P2P carsharing was used in conjunction with other shared mobility services. Respondents reported that 14% were members of at least one other P2P carsharing service, 43% were members of at least one other carsharing organization, and 78% had used at least one other shared mobility service. Many P2P carsharing members were also frequent users of Lyft and Uber, broadly suggesting that they used a portfolio of shared mobility modes to meet their transportation needs.

In addition to these key findings, the study also unveiled motivations and barriers for using P2P carsharing. For vehicle owners, key opportunities and motivations included: 1) earning revenue on existing, often underused vehicles and 2) contributing to the “sharing economy” by providing mobility access to others. Common barriers for vehicle owners included: 1) concerns about their inability to use their personal vehicle when it is accessed by a guest, 2) potential vehicle damage, and 3) complex insurance requirements that vary by jurisdiction.

Today, P2P carsharing operators in the U.S. have developed strategies for providing insurance that cover vehicles while they are in use by guests ⎯in all but New York State ⎯ which do not jeopardize the existing insurance policies held by vehicle hosts. Thus, a single vehicle in a P2P carsharing network is covered by two different insurance policies: 1) one that insures the vehicle’s use by the host and 2) the other, which is provided by the operator — called “group insurance,” that covers all driving by guests. In addition, insurance requirements have become simpler as many jurisdictions have revised their laws to cover P2P mobility services. These jurisdictions require the P2P carsharing operators provide vehicle liability insurance and assume liability in the event of a loss or injury while a vehicle is in use by a guest. In addition, legislative reforms in California, Oregon, and Washington prohibit a host’s liability insurer from canceling a policy or reclassifying their personal insurance from a private passenger motor vehicle to a commercial use vehicle due to its use in a vehicle-sharing program.

For vehicle guests, key opportunities and motivations to participate in P2P carsharing include: 1) accessing a wide array of vehicles, including luxury and zero-emission models and 2) avoiding the costs and hassles associated with private vehicle ownership such as: parking, maintenance, and insurance. Common barriers for vehicle owners include: 1) first/last mile connections to access P2P carsharing vehicles, 2) key pick-up and drop-off, and 3) lack of reliable response from a car host following a sharing request. Access to/from vehicles and other challenges suggest expanding P2P carsharing outside of urban areas could be more challenging.

The convergence of automation, P2P carsharing, and shared mobility has the potential to transform how people access and use mobility services. Understanding of current P2P carsharing services could help to address potential opportunities and barriers to shared automated vehicles (SAVs). In the future, it is possible that privately owned shared AVs could augment the vehicle supply offered by dedicated SAV fleets. This could enable SAV fleets in more diverse land use environments, such as the suburbs and smaller cities. Moving forward, the transportation community will need to rethink traditional notions of access, mobility, and auto mobility. P2P carsharing and other forms of shared mobility could help with a transition toward a range of SAV models.

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