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“Without a critical mass of users, dynamic carpooling simply cannot exist”

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par Elsa Sidawy | 09.19.11

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Carpooling actors today are moving quickly. And for good reason, the battle continues with the emergence of dynamic carpooling, which will soon allow users to keep their own hours. But for Frederic Bisson, vice president in charge of parliamentary relations with Feduco (National Federation of Ridesharing), dynamic carpooling today faces a major obstacle: achieving a critical mass of users.

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Frédéric Bisson

Innov’ in the City Where is dynamic carpooling today in France today?

Frédéric Bisson Dynamic carpooling has been a hot topic for many years now. But operators and communities who are experimenting with it encounter a recurrent obstacle: for carpooling to be economically sustainable, there must be a steady stream of participating motorists, which today is not the case. Without this critical mass, dynamic carpooling simply cannot exist.

Covivo, an Alsatian startup that’s been making strides in the area, tested dynamic carpooling on commuting routes, by loaning a box equipped with a GPS to participating motorists. Following this experiment, it published a report that analyzes the barriers to and potential levers of dynamic carpooling.

Service operators alone cannot generate an economically viable service on a large enough scale. Government support, local but also national, is essential. For example, the later must create dedicated infrastructure on public roads, such as reserved lanes and parking spaces … We must find ways for carpooling to become really attractive to motorists.

Must the development of dynamic carpooling heavily involve mobile smartphones?

Today, I consider solutions based on the use of smartphones premature, but they can, however, allow for experimentation. In the short term, it’s important to examine the penetration of these tools and the real use of them: smartphone enthusiasts are not necessarily carpoolers. The dynamic carpooling user base is made up of workers who follow regular routes and use their cars every day to get to the office.

In addition, dynamic carpooling must work with mobile telephones to be accessible to all. Moreover, the service must incur additional phone costs for users, if you want it to really take off.

What kind of experiments are conducted at the local level to encourage carpooling more generally?

Bordeaux has recently been designated as an experimental territory with its opening of a carpool lane on a stretch of motorway. This is the first French town to test this type of development. The Bordeaux Urban Community is co-financing the project with the state. Near Longjumeau, where Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet is mayor, a portion of the A10 could also be reserved for carpoolers.

What about carpooling abroad?

We went to see what was going on, some time ago, in the United States, as part of an analysis on the interoperability of carpooling websites. The idea is to share user offers and requests, to encourage operators to work together, while ensuring the privacy of their customers. This thinking led to the creation of the RDEX standard that is now used by four carpool operators. Subsequently, we invite communities that want to deploy a carpooling service in their territory to include this protocol in their requirements.

Photos credits: SiouxFalls Seminary / Flickr / Frédéric Bisson

Translated by Genny Cortinovis

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