From data dumps to MDS feeds, the evolution of carshare data

Jul 29, 2021 2:40:45 PM / by Corrine Murray

Cars on a city road at night

Photo by Qinghong Shen on Unsplash

Carsharing is a unique mobility option that provides the flexibility of a car without needing to actually own one. Individuals using carshare are able to save money on maintenance, gas, and insurance, and worry less about parking. For cities, the benefits of carshare are even greater. Every carshare vehicle takes 13 personally owned cars off the road and encourages more people to use alternative modes of transportation. This in turn helps combat climate change, puts less stress on a city’s roads, and complements the local transportation systems.

From the early stages of carshare to now, a lot has changed over the years. The consumer appetite has fluctuated, but is currently rising as people return to work and are seeking mobility options that fit their needs. As programs grow, cities will have more data that can be used to stay more informed on the day-to-day operations of their programs. This data can be used to manage this growth by helping make policy decisions, deciding where to build infrastructure, tracking fees, and more. Read on to learn about how the carshare industry is evolving.


Early stages of carshare

While the first models of carsharing may date back to 1948, the industry began to pick up in the 2000s when Flexcar and Zipcar hit the scene. Flexcar and Zipcar merged in 2007, and car2go was later launched in 2011. 


This first wave of carshare operated in cities across the world, but hit some roadblocks. When it came to data sharing, there was no real standardized process. Carshare operators would send enormous files of data a couple of times a year that city staff would have to parse through to create a report that could take days or weeks. 


An additional roadblock was the operation of the programs. It was costly to keep the cars maintained and clean, pay for parking permits, and make sure that the cars were located in strategic areas. Additionally, there was rising competition from rideshare companies, making it even harder for carshare to survive. In February 2020, car2go and Reach Now shut down their North American operations, signaling that carshare was a difficult business to operate.


With COVID-19, the carshare industry took an even bigger hit as many people remained home and traveled less. People who were traveling and commuting were less likely to use a shared vehicle, out of fear that COVID could be transmitted.


Carshare in 2021

As cities open up and people have more reasons to leave their homes again, carshare has arrived back on the scene. Many individuals remain apprehensive about taking public transit, so options and flexibility are crucial when it comes to transportation. Additionally, used car sales prices have skyrocketed, making the carshare market even more appealing for individuals who might’ve rather bought a car in the past.


With new operators, such as Free2Move, entering the market, a new wave of carshare is upon us with new expectations when it comes to data. Many cities expect carshare operators to share their data daily through MDS, to allow for day-to-day regulation, calculation of fees, and better understanding of usage.


How Ride Report manages carshare data

Last month, Ride Report added carshare as a vehicle type to our dashboard. This addition allows cities to view real-time vehicle location and status, analyze metrics over time, create policy zones, and more. 


While carshare operates similarly to micromobility programs, there are different use cases for the data. Members of the Ride Report team are actively contributing to how to update MDS to better fit carshare use cases. Considerations include longer trips that go outside city boundaries, multiple trips within one reservation, and reservations that can last multiple days. 


Carshare is experiencing a new wave of excitement. As more cities adopt carshare and wish to understand how it’s being used, the necessity for reliable data increases. Curious about how to best utilize this carshare data? Contact us to learn more!


Tags: MDS, Cities

Corrine Murray

Written by Corrine Murray