Carsharing applications are decentralized ride sharing through the use of Smartphone applications which allow for a person to request a ride and pay for it in a seamless transaction.
Ridesharing has always occurred either through formal or informal means. These recent innovations apply smartphone based applications, which have elevated ridesharing’s use and acceptance by the general population. Uber, Lyft and others report heavy use within urbanized areas, though exact numbers of patrons and customers are closely held. One measure of the acceptance of ridesharing applications is the use of Uber as a verb with statements like “Don’t worry, I’ll just Uber it” in many cities throughout the United States.
5-20 Year Evolution
We expect that these ridesharing services will continue to grow in usage and acceptance, assuming that existing legal and regulatory barriers are overcome. One significant issue is the competition with traditional taxi companies. Another challenge is how best to regulate these services with several agencies banning their use either in limited circumstances (airports) or on a citywide basis. We would expect that the 10 year forecast would be an extension of the 5-year forecast with greater use within larger urban areas. We would expect some use outside of these urban areas, assuming that drivers are available. Within the 20-year horizon, we expect that ride sharing services will be one of the main travel modes within select areas. These ride sharing services may be transformative in that they could also change vehicle ownership patterns by reducing the need for additional vehicles within a household.
Relationship to Other Tech
There are strong synergies between these mobility applications and autonomous vehicles, in which persons could use smart phone applications to summon self-driving taxis instead of a persons.
Car sharing services have the potential to transform the transportation system, though there are two potential divergent outcomes. Under the first outcome, car sharing services result in a zero-sum game in terms of transportation metrics. Any VMT and congestion benefits accruing to the use of these services could be offset by the additional VMT associated with drivers circulating around looking for passengers. These services also have the potential to affect other shared ride travel modes and could reduce transit ridership in selected areas.
The second potential, and more positive outcome, occurs if car sharing services reduce vehicle ownership. This scenario reflects the implementation of a “sharing” economy in which choose to have their mobility needs met without owning a vehicle. Under this scenario, car companies and ride sharing applications could merge into comprehensive mobility providers, similar to the evolution in the telecommunications industry.