History of Car Sharing Around the World

May 18, 20224 minutesBlog
History of Car Sharing Around the World

Thanks to technological, societal and demographic developments, the world is experiencing a rapid and wide range of innovation in mobility.

One commonly observed new development is carsharing. In a study conducted by IBM, 39% of consumers preferred a carsharing model. Car sharing is an efficient and low-cost option for transportation. But did you know these car-sharing innovations have been around for a long time? This article provides relevant information about the history of car-sharing in the world. 

1948: The world's first car-sharing based in Zurich. 

In 1948, a cooperative known as "Sefage" or housing cooperative, founded in Zurich, Switzerland, pioneered one of the first car-sharing programs in Europe. Sefage appealed to people who could not afford to buy a car but found the idea of sharing one interesting. This car-sharing scheme, however, did not survive long.

1974: Revolutionary Electric Car Sharing in the Netherlands

In the 1970s, many people were experimenting with new ideas and values for society.. When Amsterdam needed an innovative idea to tackle pollution, Luud Schimmelpennink offered his solution: Whitaker, or white car,a battery-powered, three-wheeled car-sharing system. The first "Witkar '' hit the road in 1974, and the sharing scheme lets people borrow an electric two-seater car from one of five charging points. It was highly revolutionary and well-received till it reached a membership of 4,500 people. However, the city council didn’t accept the electric car-sharing system at the time, even though it was a brilliant idea.

1980's: Europe Car Sharing is Getting more successful

Over the next decade, people had expected car-sharing to grow in popularity. Mobility CarSharing Switzerland, with 1,400 automobiles, and Drive Stadtauto (previously StattAuto Berlin), with roughly 300 cars, were the two largest car-sharing organizations. Today, the Swiss program, which began in 1987, has over 30,000 members and works in 700 venues in over 300 municipalities. Drive Stadtauto, which started operations in 1988, has roughly 7,500 members and operates in 110 sites. Their present membership number reflects a 1998 merger of StattAuto Berlin, Hamburg, Cottbus, Potsdam, and Rostock.

1994: Car sharing in North America

Canada was home to five of North America's nine car-sharing organizations (North American CSOs). Auto-Com in Quebec City is the oldest, having started operations in August 1994 and having 450 members and 34 cars in 1999. This company originated as a nonprofit cooperative, but in 1997 it became a for-profit corporation. It founded CommunAuto, Inc., a for-profit CSO in Montreal, in September 1995, with 550 members and 32 cars by 1999.

1995: First Commercial Car Sharing in the Netherlands

Greenwheels, the Netherlands' first commercial car-sharing firm, was founded in Rotterdam in 1995, and it is still in operation today. In 2020, Greenwheels became the largest carsharing provider in the Netherlands, with a fleet totaling 2,700 vehicles.

1997: First Car sharing in Singapore

The Car Co-op, which began operations in Singapore in 1997, was one the most well-known car sharing operations in Asia. It makes use of an electronic keypad as well as onboard computers. Residents of two nearby condominiums were automatically members and had access to a fleet of shared cars, including a Mercedes-Benz limousine, multi-purpose vehicles, and sedans. Its goal was to give one car for every 40 residents as it grows. During the first three years of the initiative, each of the two condominium developers contributed roughly $100,000 to the operation. Members do not pay membership fees; instead, they pay for usage. Booking a limousine, for example, costs $20 per hour. Carsharing lots were also established near public transportation.  

1999: Car Sharing in Japan

In May 1999, 300 Toyota employees began a one-year trial of the "Crayon" electric vehicle commuter system. Smart cards, a reservation, location, and recharging management system, automatic vehicle location, a vehicle information and communications system, and a fleet of 35 compact electric E-com cars were all part of this system (with plans to increase to 50 vehicles). Toyota workers in central Japan rented vehicles and drove them between their homes and work areas and the company's heliport. Charging stations were be available at eight parking lots.

2000: Car Sharing in the US

In several US cities, there was a growing interest in car-sharing. In Chicago, the "ShareCarGo!'' The project was launched in 2000 with 12-14 vehicles, around 100 members, and 5-6 locations. In the San Francisco area, the Hertz-BART program and Anaheim – Metrolink launched a limited program with 20-40 vehicles at a rail station in Fremont in early 2000. Car City Share San Francisco announced that the operations in 2000. Other car-sharing plans for the year 2000 included the Presidio National Park in San Francisco (Ford TH!NK), Washington, DC (DC Car Share), and Boston (Boston Car Share) (ZipCar).

2022: Self Driving Car Sharing Taking a Big Leap

Self-driving cars, once thought to be a science fiction dream, are now on the streets of many  big cities in the US. Self-driving car-sharing developers want to provide a hands-free experience without compromising personal safety by using the most sophisticated 3D imaging and AI. Self-driving car companies have ambitious goals, even though their technology has yet to be widely implemented. According to estimates, over 33 million self-driving cars will be on the road by 2040. Around 55 percent of small companies anticipate incorporating self-driving car technology into their operations within the next two decades. Waymo's car-sharing system, the leader in self-driving technology, launched its commercial vehicles in 2020. These innovations were followed by other big companies such as Cruise, Uber, Lyft, Tesla, and Aurora Innovation Inc (AUR. O) 

Today, car-sharing operates in approximately 600 cities worldwide, and by 2030, 400 million people are expected to rely on automated car sharing. Meanwhile, given the positive growth of electric cars and ride-sharing apps, we expect continued expansion in car sharing. The advantages of reducing pollution, combating climate change, low cost, convenience and efficiency make this one of the best solutions for the urban mobility challenges.