Mobility is in the midst of a cultural revolution, with social media and mobile applications constantly introducing new ways of getting around and sharing vehicles. Ride-hailing apps like Uber or Lyft allow people to get a cab in a matter of minutes, while carpooling and ridesharing sites like BlaBlaCar enable others to hitch a ride with a driver planning to go to the same destination. And of course, there are many car-sharing concepts currently being tested, like the Paris Autolib service, which allows drivers to rent and drop off cars by the hour, or even by the minute. According to General Motors, approximately six million people worldwide already use some sort of car-sharing scheme and the number is rising fast.
The latest idea to emerge in the mix of car-sharing concepts is known as fractional car ownership, where people (usually three to six, depending on the carmaker or model) buy a car together and split the costs. Since owning a car can be a hassle and quite expensive, especially for people who only drive occasionally, fractional car ownership is being tested as a viable alternative. The concept seems to be catching on, not only because it’s cheaper and more convenient, but also because it could reduce traffic and the number of parking spots needed in busy cities. So, how exactly how does it work and how will it impact the automotive industry’s business model?
From time-sharing to car-sharing
The concept behind fractional car ownership is actually not new and has existed for some time now in the form of timesharing for vacation properties, for example, which has been very successful. So, the idea now is to adapt the business model to cars.
Here’s how it works. Some car manufacturers, including Audi and Ford, have begun to test this innovative service to enable groups of people to buy or lease a car together. Using social media, the carmakers analyze user needs and the compatibility of a series of people and put them together to enable them to own/lease the same car. A smartphone app is then made available to the drivers to help them organize driving time and cost sharing, including insurance, fuel and maintenance. This allows each person to participate in the scheme on a pay-as-you-go basis! This results in the co-owners benefiting from more flexible mobility solutions and is of course a very cost-effective investment. It also enables the automakers to test the everyday effect and behavioral impact this has on the people involved. On top of that, fractional car ownership is good for the environment.
Private transport goes public
If this ownership and service concept takes off, the automotive industry will have an opportunity to reach a wider market and change our way of thinking about cars. One of the greatest challenges in this adventure is the need to change the materials of car components, which will have to be more resistant to serve multiple drivers. Here are a few examples of some of the changes that private cars will have to deal with if they are to be shared:
- Textiles and interior trimmings will have to be tougher and better coated to make them more tear and burn-resistant if they are to cater to many people, as is the case in public transport. In these applications, silicones will play a key role since they are used in a wide range of high-resistance textiles and synthetic materials, as well as leather products.
- Safety features will have to be enhanced as well, since multiple users will mean that people with varying driving skills and experience will have access to the same vehicle. Better brakes and many automatic safety features will also be required, many of which depend on silicones for their performance, insulation and resistance to outside hazards such as extreme temperatures, dust and chemical pressure.
And the list goes on… For more on this subject, check out one of our previous articles:
So, the concept of shared car ownership is making huge strides forward and many industries, including parts manufacturers, are exploring this vast new area, which will supply advanced silicones from bumper to bumper!