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Thursday, January 12, 2012
Collaborative Consumption Reaches the Garage

Peer-to-peer services that let strangers borrow your car could redefine auto ownership.

That Dodge Nitro sure looks like a sweet ride. Parked in an alley near Boston's Symphony Hall, it's just waiting to be boosted. My accomplice and I pull our winter caps low and sidle up to the white SUV. I pull out an electronic card, pass it along the windshield, and hear a reassuring click as the door locks release. We quickly duck into the seats, find the hidden ignition key, and start it up. No alarms. I step lightly on the gas and we pull away.

The owner of the car is fine with all this. She is Natalia Widulinski, a Northeastern University student from Stamford, Connecticut, and for $8 an hour she's allowing complete strangers to borrow her car when she doesn't need it. "I was looking for a way to pay for parking," she says. She earns as much as $300 a month — more than her $175 parking bill.

She and I are both members of RelayRides, one of a handful of new car-sharing services backed by Silicon Valley investors who are betting on so-called "collaborative consumption." That is the idea that people will share personal assets in order to cut the costs of ownership and be neighborly. Borrowers save money and reduce their environmental footprint.

Collaborative Consumption Reaches the Garage - Technology Review
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