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Some say the death of the private car is just around the corner. Others say that the demise of private car ownership is greatly exaggerated.  I would have said that the latter is probably true, until I saw what Carshare Atlantic was doing in Halifax, N.S., and Car2Go was doing in Vancouver, B.C. (Car2Go is expanding all around the world – including New York, Chicago, Austin, Seattle, Portland, and other U.S. cities).

car sharing

The interesting thing about these companies is that they are being acquired by European investors. Car2Go has been purchased by Daimler AG, the German car manufacturer. “German automaker Daimler has been steadily investing in a stream of new transportation services as it positions itself for the next generation of car ownership and travel.” Carshare Atlantic was purchased by Communauto, a larger carsharing company in Montreal, and Communauto is going into a partnership with RATP Group, a French company that does carsharing. RATP is a government-owned entity that operates the Paris subways.

I’ve been interested in carsharing since my father introduced me to the concept in the 1950s. My father’s idea was to have all cars owned by the government, with all citizens allowed to rent the cars.

I’ve been interested in carsharing since my father introduced me to the concept in the 1950s. My father’s idea was to have all cars owned by the government, with all citizens allowed to rent the cars. His idea was that you would have a key and you could pick up and drive a car anywhere, drive it anywhere, and leave it anywhere. Of course, he didn’t have access to computers and other electronic devices to make the Auto Clicker Download system work. On the other hand, we do.

You should look at the Communauto website to get an idea of how it works. (It’s in French but you can click on the “EN” in the top right hand corner to shift it to English). You’ll notice that cars are available throughout the downtown area, and that their location coordinates with subways in cities like Montreal and Paris. If you pick up a “Flex Car,” you can pick it up and leave it anywhere within the shaded areas without a reservation. With a “Communauto,” you have a reservation and an obligation to deliver the car back to its station at a specific time.

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In the US, you can use Zipcar (an Avis subsidiary), which is like Communauto, in that you have to pick up and return the car at a specific location. Now Zipcar is also allowing one-way trips, which is more like the Flexcar model, except that the car must be picked up at a Zipcar station and delivered to a Zipcar station.

The innovation that will make these companies work better than the old fashioned car rental models is the Flexcar idea: picking up the car anywhere within a geographic area and delivering it to anywhere within that geographic area. Once we have self-driven cars, the model will be complete. The car may be picked up anywhere (or self-driven to pick you up anywhere) and then left off anywhere, because it can be self-driven back to an appropriate starting point. We are at the beginning of self-driven vehicles right now, and within ten years they are likely to become a norm. One can only hope that carsharing will continue to surge, because self-driven cars will make it possible.

If self-driven cars are combined with carsharing, there will be a collapse of the fossil fuel market over time, and roads will have fewer cars on them. Having fewer cars will ease the need for road repair and transit police. Self-driven cars in a carsharing mode will ease coordination with subways and busses. And, of course, private cars will become mostly a thing of the past, as people experience car sharing discover the carsharing saves them money.

michael hertz

Michael T. Hertz