Shared-use vehicle services provide members access to a vehicle fleet for use on an as-needed basis, without the hassles and costs of individual auto ownership. From June 2001 to July 2002, the authors surveyed 18 U.S. shared-use vehicle organizations on a range of topics, including organizational size, partnerships, pricing, costs, and technology. While survey findings demonstrate a decline in the number of organizational starts in the last year, operational launches into new cities, membership, and fleet size continue to increase. Several growth-oriented organizations are responsible for most of this expansion. The authors explore several factors that challenge shared-use vehicle growth, such as high capital investment (or start-up costs), dramatic insurance rate hikes, and scarcity of cost-effective technologies.
The authors conclude that while early niche market findings are encouraging, the ability of this emerging sector to actualize its total environmental, economic, and social goals may be limited without the collective support of private industry (e.g., automakers, insurance providers, technology producers); public agents (e.g., transit and governmental agencies); and shared-use vehicle programs. Indeed, public-private partnerships and cooperation among shared-use vehicle providers may play a key role in addressing insurance and technology costs and assuring the long-term viability of this market.