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SocialCar: A Horizon 2020 Project

We continue our look at various Horizon 2020 projects with one that is focussing on smarter mobility. SocialCar is an online platform that allows for the rental of vehicles between individuals. Vehicle owners register, add their car data and after verifying that they meet the necessary requirements they can rent their car to registered drivers.

The main objectives of the project are to show that there are innovative ways that we can make better use of current resources and that through such a scheme it is possible to reduce the number of vehicles that are on our roads at any one time. Cars in general are expensive and inefficient, we buy them and for 90% or more of the time they are sitting around doing nothing other than taking up space – so if it is possible to decrease this % then it could have a very positive impact on society and the environment. There are positive financial benefits for the owner too as they get an additional income from the car rental.

The traditional model of car ownership is being challenged in many ways by technology, this project aims to show that through the combination of public transport, car pooling and social media there can be a SocialCar system that really works. The project is being tested in 10 cities around Europe, Edinburgh, Brescia, Ljubjana, Skopje, Turin, Brussels, Lazio region, Luxembourg, Ticino and Zagreb. The basis of the idea is that over the past few years we have seen a boom in the sharing economy, I am not going to name the three companies that everyone always does when talking about the sharing economy because you know who they are.

Why can such a system not be put to good use in the area of car sharing or pooling – after all if your car is sitting around doing nothing then why not make some extra money from it. They are not cheap after all!

SocialCar is developing an online platform that is focussed on the user and aims to kick-start new business models within the area of mobility – this is a a collaboration between public and private companies with the aim of showing that this solution can really deliver a quality service for customers and deliver from an environmental aspect.

In 2016 car sales in Europe increased by 5.1% to 15.1 million. Imagine not only the amount of environmental damage that each of those cars will do to the environment, but also the cost and environmental impact of not making that many cars. If the SocialCar system took off and was a real success then you can only imagine that the number of new car sales each year would fall dramatically.

The car manufacturers would not be happy and this could have a knock on impact on jobs in this industry, but if we are buying less cars then that would mean a lot more disposable income in peoples pockets – this could be spent on much more environmentally friendly products than cars. The last point to be made here is that each car that is made creates a carbon footprint whilst it is being produced, if the number of new cars fell by 50% because of a new sharing model of car ownership then this would have a very positive knock on impact on the environment. Put quite simply, it is a win-win-win.

There is also the social benefit that should not be underestimated, there are several stories of people, neighbours, who did not know each other before the scheme was launched. From the rent they have established a personal relationship of trust, let’s say that SocialCar humanises neighbourhoods. Users value each other’s experience, a finished rental, so it helps to build a more connected and trusting community.

In terms of guarantees, all cars and vans have the necessary insurance so you can rent them safely, this is a very important point – without the regulation and standards being in place no such solution will ever be a success. In addition, when a landlord accepts a reservation request, the driver is charged the rent amount and a security deposit through a secure payment. SocialCar manages the fines in case of infringement during the rental and provides the means to verify the veracity of the recorded data.

It will be interesting to see how this project evolves, but the positive, social, environmental and financial impacts seem quite clear cut so we look forward to the day when such a model of car ownership is the norm.

For more information about this project: http://socialcar-project.eu/

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