There are two kinds of car sharing services. In one, a company owns a large number of cars and rents them out to people who need them for short trips within a defined area. In the other, private owners make their cars available online via a smartphone app. Examples of the first kind of car sharing service include Daimler’s Car2Go, Bolloré’s BlueIndy, and AAA’s new Gig program just getting underway in Oakland, California.
The private car sharing model is less common. Turo is perhaps the best known company operating in America. Mercedes started experimenting with private car sharing last December in Munich. That pilot program has been successful enough that the company is now expanding it to other German cities, including Berlin.
The Mercedes peer-to-peer model is called Croove. People connect with each other over the internet. Tell the system where you are and where you want to go, and the cloud will connect you with Croove members who want to rent their cars out to paying customers. The service lets users set their own price or let Croove establish a fair rate after taking into account supply and demand. Croove is available to owners of all vehicle makes and models. If you want to rent out your Ferrari Testarossa, you are free to do so with Croove.
The Croove model means you get a relatively spread out selection of pick-up points to choose from, though you have to return the vehicle to its origin. There’s also a paid delivery option, if you want the car to come to you. The service currently relies on someone handing you a physical key, but Mercedes intends to introduce digital keys in the future.
Elon Musk has hinted that Tesla is developing a Tesla Network that will allow its owners to rent out their cars to other drivers. The catch is that they will be prohibited from doing so using other networks, however. Everything must flow through the Tesla mothership — and, of course, Tesla will keep a piece of the action for itself. Musk enthuses that renting their cars out will help people pay for them.
What Musk doesn’t explain is why someone who owns a $160,000 Model X P100D would want to let a family of four from out of town use it or who will clean the bubblegum off the underside of the seats when they are done. Apparently, the Tesla Network will be sophisticated enough to allow geofencing and maximum speed parameters. And soon, if someone doesn’t bring the car back to where they are supposed to leave it, the car will be able to find its own way home.
Peer-to-peer networks are expected to become more popular as the sharing economy expands. Companies like Mercedes see a significant business opportunity by inserting themselves into the middle of such transactions. The Croove experiment was devised by Mercedes’ CASE division which is devoted to exploring new options for connected and autonomous cars, mobility services, and electric technology projects.