The new Chevy Bolt will not have autonomous driving capability when it arrives in showrooms, but it will have 4G LTE connectivity. Why it that important? Because General Motors intends to position itself at the front of the coming car sharing revolution and the Bolt is a big part of that plan. Last month, the General said it is investing $500 million in Lyft, the ride hailing service that competes with Uber. Now it is introducing Maven, a service designed to compete with ZipCar.
Those who pretend to know the future see a world where urban residents no longer own private cars. Instead, they arrange for a ride whenever they need one using apps on their cell phones. GM says there are about 5,000,000 people who use Uber and Lyft today. It expects that number to double and then double again over the next five years.
A private car in the city sits idle 95% of the time. But the expenses associated with owning that car go on every minute of every day. Loan payments, insurance, and local registration fees don’t stop while a car is parked. Maintenance and repairs still have to be paid for, as do expenditures for parking and fuel. The idea is, a city dweller could save a ton of money each month by using a car only when needed. On the other side of the equation, corporations can make a ton of money by turning cars into 24 hour a day income producing machines.
Fewer cars on the road mean less congestion. Urban space dedicated to parking can be repurposed for recreation, bike paths and green space. People will walk more, making the society healthier and lowering medical care costs. In other words, by helping people share cars rather than own cars, General Motors and others can tap into a new revenue stream while benefiting society as a whole. What’s not to like?
“What this is all about… is making sure that we can provide a service that’s completely seamless, completely connected, very easy to use, highly personalized, and a very efficient way to get around from A to B, from a car utilization perspective,” said GM President Dan Ammann in a conference call with reporters Wednesday evening.
The cars will be compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM, allowing users to teleport their digital existence into any vehicle they happen to be in. Julia Steyn, GM’s vice president for urban mobility, said the key is to make “the passenger and customer to feel like it’s your own vehicle.” According to The Verge, Maven signals GM’s intention to embrace car sharing rather than fighting it. “Car-share [and] ride-share, in general, is much more an opportunity for General Motors than it is a threat,” Ammann says. “It’s already a sizable marketplace, and it’s growing quite rapidly.”
Maven will only be available at 21 locations throughout the city of Ann Arbor in Michigan. At first it will use mostly Chevy Sparks but may add Chevy Bolts when they become available. But it can easily expand to include other car sharing programs in other cities. GM expects to have 5,000 users by the end of the year.
GM is not alone in pursuing car sharing, of course. Tesla CEO Elon Musk famously did a very public double take during an investors conference call last fall. Stock analyst Adam Jonas asked if Tesla is planning a similar service. Musk looked stricken and declined to answer the question.
What do you think of the car sharing idea? Is it something you would be interested in? Let us know why or why not in the comments section.