The car-sharing industry has its roots in mid-century Europe, whose coöperative vehicle pooling was mimicked, in the nineteen-eighties, by American nonprofits and city governments. But only with the spread of G.P.S. and smartphone technologies have today’s private companies been able to produce real efficiencies for the user and measurable benefits for the environment.
In 2010, Susan Shaheen, a transportation expert at the University of California, Berkeley, published a ten-year review of car-sharing data, concluding that the model basically works: those with new access to cars will drive more, but their impact is more than offset by that of car owners who begin using the programs. In other words, were car sharing to replace private car ownership in the city, the effect would likely be more drivers doing less driving. Car2Go bridges the gap between American hearts, which are still piston powered, and the typical American salary, which is just equal to the average cost of a new car.
For a local view, here is a summary from the Urban Land Institute BC of a seminar on car-sharing as part of the ‘Next Million’ series.