Some car-sharing reading, and other automobility snippets…

August 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

drivenow_berlin_smallHere’s a useful journal article from last year on carsharing – lots of references and nice historical detail, in a discussion on whether carsharing is a part of, or distinct from, automobility (the whole established system of cars/driving, including supporting infrastructures and social attitudes). Kent & Dowling (transport geographers) look at it in terms of mobility practices, and point out that it uses much of the same infrastructure as conventional driving/car ownership, but differs in terms of its digital enablement (i.e. access to cars via RFID cards, smartphone apps to locate cars) and the car being a shared commodity or object of collaborative consumption. The freedom it offers is from commitment of ownership, rather than the chance to go wherever you want, whenever, as promised by the private car. Carsharing doesn’t demand any unique skills or habits (if you can already drive in the first place), but it does require different time-management and planning,  and it is often taken up at certain life-events or changes, i.e. moving house or changing job. It is increasing linked with other networks and structures of automobility, they argue – as demonstrated by car companies and established car rental firms entering into this sector – but with spin-0ffs and related practices such as lift-sharing and one-way car-sharing coming into the picture, could be taking on a life of its own (I paraphrase).

  • And further to the above, it turns out that car rental firm Sixt has publicly confirmed that its upper-end one-way car-sharing JV with BMW, DriveNow, is coming to London. It’s up and running in Berlin (pictured), Hamburg, Munich, Cologne and Dusseldorf, as well as in San Francisco, and “London is next in line”, the Sixt blog reports. In London, it’ll have to take on the likes of Zipcar, CityCarClub and the upcoming Bollore BlueCar EV-share, though not Car2Go, which recently withdrew its Smart ForTwos, as well as smaller players under the auspices of Carplus, Co-wheels, the E-Car Club and suchlike. I reckon its main competition will, however, be all the other effective ways of getting around the city, i.e. its public transport system, cycling and walking, for starters, not to mention taxis, on-demand Uber cabs etc. Why would anyone want to drive in London unless they absolutely had to?


  • And something else for the reading list (note to self): The Urban Political Economy and Ecology of Automobility, ed. Alan Walks (Routledge), out now. I think the description – in plainer non-academic English – suggests that this explores the relationship of the car and driving to the economy, inequality and politics, focusing on the city context as well as looking at other social, ethnic and migratory factors. (Thanks, @RachelAldred, for flagging this one up).
  • Latest report and more details from the EU-funded V-Charge project, co-ordinating parking, automated driving and EV charging via a smartphone app; tests are underway of cars in Wolfsburg and Zurich, with a third car under development. It’s a new take on valet parking – no (human) valet needed.



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