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Dynamic ridesharing is breaking the deadlock

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par Elsa Sidawy | 11.15.11

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une_covoiturage-dynamique1

Is ridesharing the butt of entrenched prejudice? Its ability to reduce nuisance has been known for a long time but single car drivers are not ready to let go of their individual cars yet. With the boom of new technologies, players in that field are technically ready to shift to second gear and are developing what are known as dynamic car sharing solutions. Companies and local authorities, which are more skeptical, are experimenting this new service with sometimes-mixed results. Let us explore the mysteries of dynamic car sharing.

500 billion dollars. This staggering sum corresponds to the value of the empty seats of the 500 million individual cars crisscrossing the world’s roads every year. The “Empty seats traveling” study, carried out by the Nokia Research Center in 2009, shows the huge potential of dynamic ridesharing when based on the use of connected tools. The objective of static ridesharing’s big brother is to provide users with real-time opportunities to share rides off the cuff. Unlike standard ridesharing, it offers ridesharers more flexibility, reliability, responsiveness and less interdependence between them. The principle is that subscribers contact the service, just a couple of minutes before leaving, to look for drivers that can give them a ride matching their request. The concept is based on a real-time data exchange between drivers and potential passengers. But the definition remains extremely wide, as Léa Marzloff, associate consultant for Chronos, highlights: “when you look at the way the various operators are positioning themselves, you can see that some speak of dynamic ridesharing, real, immediate or anticipated time or safe hitchhiking. This range of words shows that the field is still under construction.

corps_covoiturage-dynamique1Commutes are the main targets
In this field, ridesharing platform operators are therefore on the lookout. For, in terms of ridesharing, the biggest efforts are not made on long-distance journeys anymore but actually on commutes, which are naturally more numerous. “Typical dynamic ridesharing users are commuting workers,” Frédéric Bisson, vice-chairman in charge of parliamentary relations at the Feduco (Fédération nationale du Covoiturage: National Ridesharing Federation), straightaway points out. Indeed companies seem to be preferred places for that type of experiment: they have a greater number of users and the lowest vehicle occupancy rate; the impact can therefore be huge. “Commutes still constitute the biggest challenge,” Sébastien Touchais – who is the chief executive of Green Monkeys and develops appropriate solutions for companies and local authorities – asserts. For its first big project in France, this start-up – armed with a first experiment in the Geneva area – has been targeting Marseilles’ city employees since September via a website and an iPhone application (read the article).

Before they take the plunge – and the Certu (Centre d’études sur les réseaux, les transports, l’urbanisme et les constructions publiques: Centre for the Study of Urban Planning, Transport and Public Facilities) had already given a warning in 2009 in a report on the subject – the service must be tested on a cross-section of users.

Hence the initiative taken by the Isère Departmental Council and supported by Covivo to create an online platform to encourage the 8,000 inhabitants of Vercors getting about by car to test real-time ridesharing. Some local authorities, like Pays de la Haute-Gironde, got down to it recently and required that it would also encourage people not only not commute to work but also to travel in and across the area (read the article). On the whole, “if we look at how the market is structured presently, it seems that we are experimenting rather than launching the project to the general public,” Léa Marzloff confirms.

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