Intelligent car sharing

First up, let’s define our terms. In the United States, car sharing is the term given to a scheme where several people have the shared use of one vehicle (this is known as a car club in the UK). Here in the UK, car sharing is the practice of sharing costs and reducing environmental impact through more than one person travelling together in the same vehicle, as seen in the recent hit BBC sitcom, Peter Kay’s Car Share. It’s that UK definition that we’ll be talking about here.

The idea of car sharing has been around for a while, but until fairly recently, schemes tended to have been run on a more or less informal basis. This is starting to change and the benefits of car sharing are really beginning to take shape. More businesses and local authorities are looking at car sharing as part of their strategy for transport planning and pollution prevention. There’s now a clear way forward for more people to enjoy the benefits of car sharing, through a more structured approach. Those benefits include:

  • Reduction in pollution and environmental impact.
  • Reduced traffic and congestion.
  • Reduction in parking requirements and parking problems.
  • Increase in transport options.
  • Reduced need for car ownership.
  • Improved transport planning
  • Cost savings from cost sharing: on fuel, maintenance, parking etc.

So what does intelligent car sharing look like? And what are the structures that we need to put in place?

Managing dedicated spaces

If we’re going to encourage greater use of car sharing, it’s not enough to send out a message centred on pollution prevention and lessening environmental impact: it needs to come with clear benefits to the sharers. One clear benefit is offering preferential parking to car sharers. If you’re a business, setting up a car sharing scheme for your employees, it might be that your car-park design includes free parking in the best locations for sharers. These spaces could be alongside your dedicated spaces for disabled employees.

For businesses such as supermarkets, leisure complexes and shopping centres, dedicated spaces for sharers could be offered at preferable locations with reduced rates. These could be positioned alongside spaces for people with disabilities or customers with young children.

Local government can also make shared spaces part of transport planning and a required feature of car-park design.

Tech and smart data can be used to make sure the spaces aren’t misused – more on that coming up in the next section.

Using intelligent data

If we’re going to offer perks in return for car sharing, then we have to make sure that sneaky single drivers don’t slip into the system to pick up the perks while keeping their passenger seats empty. Fortunately, smart data can help and it can form part of the payment systems used in car-park design.

When it comes to parking, smartphones or smart cards can be used to ensure that two or more people have arrived at the destination in one car. For example, this can be done through the use of multiple swipe card access to a barrier controlled area. Both driver and passenger would need to swipe their cards.

But intelligent data isn’t just about monitoring and enforcement. There are a range of applications that can give structure and development to car sharing.

Transportation demand management software

This helps travellers living in the same area, who are travelling at the same time to the same destination, to find one another. Organisations such as BlaBlaCar use this kind of software to transport over 700,000 passengers a month.

Data gathering

Companies like Car Share On-Line and Carbon Heroes use software that provides data on journeys taken, giving figures on things like CO2 savings and cost savings. This data can be further used to predict usage and demand, which in turn can lead to greater efficiencies.

Creating the perfect match

There are some excellent examples of car sharing businesses that are making intelligent car sharing happen, and they’re gaining popularity. Your usual car share buddy on holiday or off work with a seasonal sniffle? No problem. Use visit a car sharing website to find a temporary car sharer.

Broadly, these businesses can be put into two categories – those aimed at businesses, giving the employer an employee tool that encourages their workforces to car share for the daily commute. The second category is aimed at individuals, giving sharers the means to hook up for all kinds of journeys – work, leisure and or one-off trips. Some businesses serve both employers and individuals.

Business car sharing

Carbon Heroes works with employers, business parks and retail parks, as well as with local government to promote regional public schemes. The system includes taxi matching alongside car sharing.

Liftshare works with a variety of employers and services, including major retailers and hospitals. It also operates a free online network for individuals.

Car sharing for individuals

BlaBlaCar matches individuals and includes women only car shares.

GoCarShare connects people via social media, enabling people to share within social groups or based on sharing interests, such as music. GoCarShare has formed partnerships with more than 100 festivals and events, and can be used by students, travelling back to uni.

Jambusters and Carshare Online also work with both businesses and individuals, while Carplus promotes a range of options in the shared transport sector.

Given the possibilities of social media, smart data and smartphone apps, alongside an ever growing thirst for pollution prevention and reduced environmental impact, car sharing is set to grow. And as Peter Kay’s Car Share has warmly demonstrated, there may be a whole load of hidden social benefits. Never mind romance – just imagine, in this age of electronic communication you might actually get to spend time chatting with someone whose company you enjoy. And that could be a journey in itself.

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