Product Service Systems: The Future of Mobility Services

From Zipcar to CityCareShare, I-GO to Citywheels, carsharing companies have been offering urbanites access to share-cars for decades. Now, some people are riffing on these models, tweaking the collaborative services and using them to play by their own rules. Innovative individuals are harnessing the power of information technology to set up personalized, on-demand hubs, turning their own cars into share-cars, and more. Here are a few of our favorite examples:
Car-sharing with a Small Group
Some solutions are designed for ready-made networks of people. In their report Collaborative Services: Social Innovation and Design for Sustainability, François Jégou and Ezio Manzini discuss how residents of multi-unit buildings could create a group car-share account to ensure that they have access to specific vehicles nearby or in their building's lot:
Using existing car-sharing businesses to set up a group car-share account for a building — residents are not obligated to join but having such an account will ensure that there are several available vehicles in a building’s lot or very close to it. The company can adjust how many vehicles it makes available to the building based on demand, and when the cars are not being used by residents, they are available to other members, thereby helping to keep the whole endeavor profitable.
“It’s like classic car-sharing, but with one or several parking spaces near your building. We benefit from professionally managed vehicles: reservations via mobile telephone, maintenance, registration and replacement of vehicles — all without having to organize it."

A similar project called Zimride takes this idea from the condo complex to the campus dorm. The site combines the technology of Google Maps with the social networking power of Facebook to find rides for people at 25 public and private institutions across the United States. Zimride is now taking their rideshare algorithm to Zipcar to make hitching a ride even more efficient.

Sharing Made Personal
What if your personal vehicle could become a shared vehicle during the hours of the day when it sits idle? We've spoken with some innovative urban drivers who believe that, with a few setup details in place, personal car-share clubs between small networks of people could help defray the high costs of owning a car in an urban environment and maximize the efficiency of one private vehicle. So, what's standing in the way of DIY car-sharing? Clubs like this would require software tools to make it easy to locate and reserve the vehicle (we see an opportunity for some collaborative programming work here), and also an affordable source of insurance, which our friends in the business have told us is the most significant operational cost of car-sharing.

But some would-be-car-sharers are simply turned off by the feeling of climbing into a strange vehicle. Could the problem be solved with just a little personalization? Jégou and Manzini propose embedding personalized settings – seat and mirror adjustments, pre-programmed radio channels, etc. – into car-sharing member keycards. Swipe yourself in, and the car will be ready just as you like it.

Realtime Ridesharing
Ridesharing is a little different because it asks you to share something you might not be comfortable with: space. Although sharing a ride is nothing new, the way we are arranging them is. Services like Avego now allow for instant ridesharing by combining information technology and GPS-enabled cell phones to match up drivers and riders who are headed in the same direction. According to Sean Aune of Mashable:

"Via the GPS function you get exact directions indicating where to pick up and drop people off, and also get a running tally of how much the ride costs. After the ride is over, both the driver and passenger can rate one another."

Although still evolving as a real resource for riders, Twitter is being touted in some circles as the next big thing in realtime ridesharing. Known to fans as twitchhiking, this form of ridesharing asks travelers to rely on the social networking site's popularity as well as the kindness of fellow tweeters. One UK-based writer, Paul Smith, is testing this method by trying to travel around the world with only the help of his Twitter account (one clever blogger dubbed him "Jack Kerouac on WiFi"). In less than a month (beginning March 1), Smith crossed the Pacific and the Atlantic, and landed in New Zealand.

BY Sarah Kuck



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