Behind the Shared Wheel

March 27, 2018

How peer-to-peer carsharing is evolving the transportation landscape

As carsharing, bikesharing, ridesourcing/transportation network companies (TNCs) have become firmly ensconced in the transportation landscape across the globe, UC Berkeley researchers are releasing a first-of-its-kind impact study of these innovative services in Peer-To-Peer (P2P) Carsharing: Understanding Early Markets, Social Dynamics, and Behavioral Impacts

The study, authored by Susan Shaheen, Ph.D., Co-Director, UC Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) and adjunct professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Elliot Martin, Ph.D., TSRC Research Engineer; and Apaar Bansal, TSRC Research Associate, provides insight on how early P2P carsharing affected travel behavior of vehicle guests and hosts. Results also suggest expanding P2P carsharing outside of urban areas may be more challenging than initially expected, where acceptance and use encounter a number of barriers.

“In 2017, we estimated that there were over 2.9 million individuals participating in P2P carsharing, making use of a combined shared fleet of over 131,336 P2P vehicles across six operators in North America,” says Shaheen. “Trends show ongoing growth in members and vehicles. This study provides early understanding of the travel behavior impacts of P2P carsharing on both hosts and guests.”

In addition, the study shows access to P2P carsharing encourages some households to reduce, delay, or even avoid a vehicle purchase, and it offers the opportunity to drive more enjoyable vehicles, like a Tesla or other high-end brands. It could also allow people access to unique vehicles for long-distance travel, while permitting hosts to reduce ownership costs and/or monetize otherwise idle assets.

“P2P carsharing is a form of shared mobility that enables behavioral changes among some members that advance positive social and environmental goals,” says Martin

This study provides a base for future P2P carsharing development and public policies, especially as it relates to the coming deployment of automated vehicles (some business models emphasize shared AVs (SAVs).

“If SAVs deliver a cheaper transportation option per mile, and they are markedly safer (capabilities touted by its proponents), then P2P carsharing may become considerably more attractive and deliver even further benefits in vehicle suppression, shedding, and greenhouse gas reductions,” says Shaheen.

To study the effects of P2P carsharing on behavior and better understand its operational challenges and opportunities, as well as market characteristics, Shaheen, Martin, and Bansal looked at the social and environmental impacts via an online survey; conducted operator expert interviews to examine opportunities and obstacles; and employed focus groups to look at advantages and disadvantages.

Key Study Findings:

Changes to Travel Mode: There were no large net changes in public transit use. Taxi usage had a net decline among travelers, but ridesourcing/TNC use largely remained the same. Overall, the number of driving trips increased among users, but that difference was small among the most active users.

Vehicle Ownership: A small percentage of respondents (3%) indicated they sold a vehicle because of their carsharing membership. A larger, but still small percentage (14%) of respondents indicated that they held off purchasing a vehicle since starting their carsharing membership.

Advantages (Guest): Access to a wide range of vehicles (including high-end and zero-emission models) and avoid hassle/costs of parking, maintenance, and insurance.

Advantages (Host): Earn revenue on existing, often little-used assets and contribute to the “sharing economy,” providing mobility access to others.

Barriers/Concerns (Guest): Traveling to cars in the system to start use; key pick-up and drop-off; and lack of reliable response from a car host following a sharing request.

Barriers/Concerns (Host): Damage to vehicle; insurance frameworks, which vary by jurisdiction; and inability of host to use car during usage periods.

The University of California Transportation Center (UCTC) funded study was supported by the UCTC, TSRC, and the Institute of Transportation Studies Berkeley.

About UC Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center

The Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) was formed in 2006 to combine the research forces of six campus groups at UC Berkeley: the University of California Transportation Center, the University of California Energy Institute, the Institute of Transportation Studies, the Energy and Resources Group, the Center for Global Metropolitan Studies, and the Berkeley Institute of the Environment.

Since TSRC was founded, it has been a leading center in conducting timely research on real-world solutions for a more sustainable transportation future. In addition to performing research informed by a diverse array of perspectives, TSRC also engages in education and outreach to promote its core values of sustainability and equity to ensure that we are able to meet the transportation needs of the present without compromising future generations.

Press Contact:

Amanda Cairo