Robin Chase, the co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, teamed up with Mobivia Groupe, a privately held car maintenance company, to launch yet another innovative car-sharing program: Buzzcar. Announced last week in France, the new technology-driven service allows individuals to rent their own cars through a smartphone application to other drivers in need of some temporary wheels. As co-founder Chase describes it: “leveraging individual’s excess capacity on a common internet platform.”
The system enables individuals, companies and institutions to share their own vehicles with their peers, without having to wait for a car-sharing program to be installed near them. By making private vehicles available for use during their off-time, Buzzcar reduces the number of cars on the road and the resulting occupied parking spaces—a new concept in the car-sharing world. Since the program does not require the addition of new cars to the road, it also prevents the increase of carbon emissions.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Upon downloading the smartphone application, interested drivers can search for available cars in their region and contact the car owner directly. “The first time a new driving member (a Buzzer) rents a vehicle, the car’s owner (the Auto-preneur) will confirm on key exchange that the driver matches the driver’s license and identity card that the driver used when becoming a member,” Chase explains.
The system will also require the driver’s mobile phone number and payment information before making the reservation, all in an effort to ensure security and safety to the car owner. Car owners will also be held up to safety and security standards once they have added their own vehicles into the system.
“Buzzcar creates a user community that is accompanied by recommendations and comments for each driver and owner,” says Chase. Prior to registration, owners pledge to “maintain the car in a safe and secure manner,” which complemented with ratings and comments from the Buzzcar community, promotes a fair and secure rental system.
In addition to the annual membership fee of €20 ($28), “Buzzers” pay rental fees that are determined by the “Auto-preneurs.” Buzzcar relies on different variables to suggest pricing for a vehicle, but ultimately, the vehicle owners decide on the rental’s price. Through an online price estimator, Buzzcar considers factors like the age of the vehicle, its brand and fuel type, location and mileage. Proximity to other modes of transportation, a fair price and an eagerness to participate in the community will also increase your chances of finding drivers near you, according to Buzzcar’s website.
WHAT’S ALL THE BUZZ ABOUT?
France already touts many transportation innovations, including Vélib’, Vélo’v and AutoLib’, that have encouraged people to actively rethink the status quo, Chase says, which is part of the reason she and her partners chose France as the launch site for Buzzcar. “A greater percent of the French population is car-independent, our target market, because of better public transit options and higher price of car ownership,” she says.
Car renting will not begin until May 1. Currently the program is building a sharing network through online enrollment, where users have the opportunity to win €5,609 ($8,000) for signing up. The prize amount is symbolic in that it signifies the financial commitment it takes to own and operate a vehicle in France per year.
“Car-sharing between individuals will grow wherever the owners and drivers are ready to agree,” Chase said in an article for La Tribune. “No need to wait for the goodwill of governments.”
Although Buzzcar is looking forward to expanding worldwide, one of the biggest obstacles to implementing the program in other countries is insurance, which needs to be arranged on a country-by-country basis.
Peer-to-peer car-sharing services are growing their “virtual” fleets in cities all over the world. Companies include WhipCar, Spride Share, RelayRidesand GetAround, whose founder Sam Zeid said his service’s top earner made more than $970 in one month, exemplifying one of the financial advantages of participating.
The launch of Buzzcar and other companies is seen as being part of a larger trend of what some people are calling “The New Sharing Economy,” otherwise known as “collaborative consumption.” The increasingly popular mentality of “what’s mine is yours,” as explained by social innovator and author Rachel Botsman, is due to several factors, including Web and mobile technologies, environmental concerns, online connectivity and sharing, and even the global recession, which stresses practicality over consumption. Considering that a car spends 95 percent of its time sitting idle, why not share the resource with someone else who needs it?
To learn more about Buzzcar, visit the official website, currently in beta: www.buzzcar.com