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A couple of weeks ago I managed to free some time at work and logged into one of the Transforming Transportation talks that were taking place in the conference rooms downstairs. I was very lucky to log in just when Robin Chase, Founder of Zipcar, Buzzcar, and Veniam, started talking.  Robin is a well known entrepeneur who operationalized – via Zipcar – the concept of sharing economy to urban transportation. I want to share with you today her inspiring talk (starts Minute 9:35 in the video below) which reveals the power and rise of the sharing economy and how it is quickly changing the way we commute and consume.

I am a big fan of the sharing economy for a number of reasons. First, I am a big user of it. Although I own a bike, I use 2 to 3 times a week Capital Bikeshare, the Washington DC bike sharing system. Capital Bikeshare allows me to have more flexibility: bike to work in the morning and come back home with the Bus when it rains or snows or when I’ve had too many margaritas. I also love using car2go – a Smart car sharing system, see image below – that allows me to pick up a car anywhere in the city and leave it “almost” anywhere paying only for the time I travel (parking, fuel, and insurance are all included). Its small size means that I can easily find a place to park it, as it literaliteraly fits almost anywhere. In the same way, when I am tired and have no interest in waiting outside in the cold to find a taxi, I use Uber “my personal driver” and when I am planning a road trip in the US or Europe, Airbnb.com has become the first online platform I visit.

The sharing economy (i.e. car rentals and hotel rooms – or bed sharing) has existed for decades but the democratization of the internet and smartphones is making sharing much easier. In addition, the sharing economy is allowing people and firms to exploit excess capacity so that existing assets can be used more efficiently. For instance, I have found it difficult to justify buying a car when I have so many other options at hand (i.e. Car2go, Uber, my own bike, Bikeshare, Zipcar, Avis…). This in my view, has important positive impacts on the environment.

Please refer to the links below for more information on the rise and challenges of the sharing economy,

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21573104-internet-everything-hire-rise-sharing-economy

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21601257-too-many-obstacles-are-being-placed-path-people-renting-things-each-other-remove

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