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Published on April 3rd, 2018 | by Steve Hanley


GM To Experiment With Peer-To-Peer Carsharing Plan

April 3rd, 2018 by  

Would you let someone else drive your car when it’s not being used? In the sharing economy, people are renting out all sorts of things — clothing, power tools, wedding dresses — thanks to the power and convenience of online sharing platforms. Airbnb and VRBO do the same thing with rooms in private homes. Why not cars? Bloomberg reports that General Motors plans to dip a toe into the peer-to-peer carsharing business through its Maven subsidiary later this year.

GM and car sharingThere are two companies which already do this — Turo and Getaround. While neither is a giant like Avis or Hertz, both are experiencing solid growth. Turo now has 200,000 cars in its system — triple the number of just 2 years ago. It raised $92 million last September in a funding round led by Daimler and SK Holdings. A year ago, Getaround raised $45 million, with Toyota leading the way.

Maven already rents cars on a short term basis much the way ZipCar does. Its Maven Gig program provides cars to those who want to drive for Uber or Lyft but have no suitable vehicle of their own. Alexandre Marian, an industry analyst, tells Bloomberg that GM can make this model work thanks to the huge number of people who own vehicles manufactured by the company. “Carmakers are preparing for disruption, so they are experimenting with different models,” Marian says.

The advantage of peer-to-peer sharing for General Motors is that it will not own the vehicles the way it does the cars in the Maven inventory at present. A spokesperson for Maven was tight-lipped, telling The Verge, “At Maven, we are always considering new, innovative ways to make sharing easier. We have no plans to announce at this time.”

Elon Musk hinted back in 2016 that a peer-to-peer sharing model for Tesla owners is contemplated at some point in the future. “You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost,” Musk said. “This dramatically lowers the true cost of ownership to the point where almost anyone could own a Tesla.”

Maybe, but there’s more to it than just going online and adding the VIN number of your car to a database, then sitting back to watch the money roll in. Are you going to bring your car to customers? And if you do, how do you get back home? If they come to you, how do they get there? And if someone sitting in the back seat is eating cotton candy and gets it all over the upholstery, who cleans it up? Maven customers in San Francisco report the cars are often dirty when they get them. The service has a fairly dismal rating of 1.5 on Yelp, says The Verge.

There are also regulatory issues to consider. Taxi companies are challenging Uber and Lyft because they are avoiding many of the rules taxi companies have to follow. The American Car Rental Association, a lobbying group for companies like Enterprise and Hertz, is pushing lawmakers to eliminate what it sees as unfair loopholes from taxes that its members have to pay and that carsharing companies do not. Turo is now embroiled in a dispute with the city of San Francisco over access to the local airport.

Any business that takes money out of someone’s pocket to put it in its own is going to face pushback. Making a few extra bucks by renting out your ride may not be worth the hassle of delivering it, picking it up, cleaning it, and paying lawyers to defend you in endless litigation. Of course, people said the same thing about Airbnb a few years ago and it seems to have transitioned into a stable and successful business. If peer-to-peer carsharing follows a similar trajectory, GM is preparing to ride the wave. 


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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.

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