Authors: Susan Shaheen, PhD
Date: July 2006
With auto ownership and fuel costs rising, people everywhere are seeking alternatives to private vehicle ownership. Carsharing (or short-term vehicle rentals) provides such an alternative through hourly rates and subscription-access plans, especially for individuals and businesses in major cities with good access to other transportation modes, such as transit and carpooling. The principle of carsharing is simple: individuals gain the benefits of private vehicle use without the costs and responsibilities of ownership. People involved in this typically join an organization that maintains a fleet of cars and light trucks in a network of locations, such as lots at transit stations or in neighborhoods or businesses. Most carsharing operators manage their services with some degree of modern computer-based technologies, which can include automated reservations, smart card vehicle access, and real-time vehicle tracking. For nearly 20 years, there has been growing worldwide participation in carsharing. Some 330,000 individuals—nearly two thirds of whom are in Europe—now share at least 10,500 vehicles as part of organized carsharing services (See Table 1 and Figure 1). Many of these operations began in Switzerland and Germany in the late 1980s and later spread to 12 other countries on the continent and to the United Kingdom. In the 1990s, North America and Asia also started professional carsharing activities. More recently, three carsharing initiatives were launched in Australia starting in 2003.