Often described as “AirBnB” for cars, peer-to-peer (P2P) carsharing is catching the attention of transportation experts because of its potential to extend service into low-density areas and other locations where traditional carsharing has had difficulty taking hold.

In 2015, the Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC) will partner with the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and a third-party operating company to test out three models of P2P car-sharing in areas of Chicagoland with varying levels of income and transportation infrastructure.

SUMC’s goal is to determine how to structure P2P to best serve moderate-income communities and suburban areas and, ultimately, to make this form of carsharing successful in areas that stand to benefit from more transportation services.

The two-year pilot project – funded by a U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) grant distributed through the City of Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) – will include testing a variety of marketing strategies, extensive  evaluation and a report on best practices.

In the meantime, SUMC has begun tracking the progress of the nascent P2P industry ahead of the pilot’s launch this spring. Following is a summary of innovative approaches that public and private sector leaders have taken to address issues such as providing insurance and establishing market niches.


For P2P operators, providing insurance coverage to its renters and owners is a necessary, but complex concern. In most cases, P2P insurance takes the place of the vehicle owner’s existing insurance policy during a reservation. These policies commonly offer liability coverage up to $1 million per incident and comprehensive coverage up to the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of the vehicle.

In the public sector, the states of California, Oregon, and Washington have taken the lead in passing legislation to expand insurance options for P2P services. However, private sector carsharing operators are also taking action to improve options for P2P consumers. Getaround, the U.S.-based P2P carsharing operator, announced a partnership with Assurant Specialty Property in 2014 to provide primary insurance for both owners and renters during carsharing rental periods.

The coverage adheres to the guidelines set by California, Oregon, and Washington, which exceeds other states’ minimums several times over. Lyft, a P2P ridesharing service in which individuals offer rides to others, also announced the launch of a “Peer-to-Peer Rideshare Insurance Coalition” in 2014. Composed of “transportation companies, regulators, insurance providers, and other stakeholders,” the group provides a forum for industry professionals to continue to address issues around insurance in P2P ridesharing.

Market Niches

Private operators in the P2P sector have also distinguished themselves by focusing on developing specific market niches and new technologies. For instance, RelayRides – currently the largest P2P operator in the U.S. with vehicles in over 2,500 cities – is setting itself apart by focusing on daily and multi-day rentals.

In 2014, the company also introduced a delivery feature through which renters can get the car they want delivered directly to them by a participating owner. RelayRide’s various approaches have caught the attention of investors; the company announced a total of $35 million in new funding in the past year.

P2P operator Getaround is also developing new technologies to enable faster and more convenient rental exchanges. The company has rolled out an “Instant” program in which owners install “Carkit” hardware to enable renters to find and unlock vehicles from their smartphones1. After only one year in use in San Francisco, Getaround Instant accounts for 90 percent of bookings in the city.

Other P2P operators are also experimenting in new neighborhoods and with different price structures, including:

•    Carplus, a nonprofit that promotes alternatives to traditional car use in the UK. With partner easyCar Club, Carplus launched a pilot P2P program in Linlithgow, Scotland to test P2P carsharing in smaller towns and rural communities . While traditional operators would have difficulty locating in low-density areas like Linlithgow, P2P may provide residents of the Scottish community with additional travel options at more affordable rates.

•    Flightcar, a P2P operator based in San Francisco that allows owners to rent their cars to travelers coming in from the airport. In exchange, Flightcar owners receive free airport parking. Unlike other P2P programs, Flightcar operates a fixed payment program in which owners may earn between $150 and $400 each month. To qualify, owners must make their cars available for rental for all but four days per month.

•    Car Next Door, a P2P operator in Australia, which provides a “closed network” service that limits carsharing to members of specific apartment dwellings. Within the closed network, renters search only for cars offered by owners living in the same building. In 2014, Car Next Door launched a closed network program at Essence South Melbourne Apartments in Melbourne.

Interestingly, the program was actually mandated by the Port Phillip Council Planning Department due to a parking shortfall at Essence South as the dwelling only provided 179 spaces for 224 units. As a result, Essence South residents have access to cars at the most convenient location – their homes – without the addition of more parking spaces and vehicles.

As peer-to-peer carsharing increases in popularity, more issues – and innovative solutions – are sure to arise. We look forward to tracking them here. Additionally, stay tuned for more information about the Shared-Use Mobility Center’s P2P carsharing pilot in 2015!