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Is car sharing the future for the last mile?


Is car sharing the future for the last mile?

Ian Kerr

Will the courier of the future have his/her own vehicle, or will car sharing disrupt the leasing/ownership model for delivery vehicles? Will we see smaller dedicated delivery fleets in the future?

Mercedes-Benz has launched a new car sharing service called Croove. It's an app-based service that connects private car owners with potential hirers.

But get this - it will be open to any brand of vehicle. The Croove car sharing scheme is part of Mercedes-Benz's strategy of transforming from a vehicle manufacturer to "mobility provider".

The app is for private use, and seems to be aimed at people who would otherwise rent a car from a car rental company.

So could we see car sharing in the last mile? Will the sharing economy change the way delivery companies organise vehicle fleets?

Standard delivery

Delivery firms with set runs use the same vehicle each day, so what benefits could car sharing offer?

As it is, delivery companies aim to reduce vehicle idle-time by using the same vehicle fleet for daytime deliveries and nighttime collections.

So if delivery companies are unlikely to offer their fleet for hire via car sharing, are there individuals who would let delivery companies use their vehicle for daytime deliveries or nighttime collections? Well, perhaps if there are people who use a long wheel base delivery van for the school/work run... 

So in short, the flexibility of car sharing won't help delivery companies with set runs.

Express and on-demand courier jobs

According to Mercedes-Benz, on average a car is parked for 23 hours a day. So could express or on-demand couriers use those vehicles?

Car sharing via Croove involves the hirer contacting the vehicle owner to make arrangements for collection, delivery of the car, and pickup. This would make hiring a car for a single delivery job impractical. If access were via the smartphone (as is being trialled by Volvo, for example) then maybe car sharing might work for single delivery jobs.

A driver who does delivery jobs for a crowd-sourced delivery company may find car sharing more feasible. Hiring a vehicle for a few hours a day might be more affordable via a car sharing app compared to traditional ownership, leasing or rental arrangements.

Vehicle type is crucial to whether or not private/commercial car sharing would work. Private individuals are more likely to own a sedan than a delivery van, which restricts the size of consignments that could be carried. Car sharing might work for pizza delivery (if you don't mind your car smelling of pizza every morning) but wouldn't work for delivery of larger goods.

If the delivery driver has an accident in a car that's insured for private use only, what happens?

Delivery and the sharing economy

There is a niche in the delivery sector for "sharing" services. Nimber, bringr, and other crowd-sourced delivery services connect customers with drivers who have their own vehicles. Is the next step to connect customers with drivers with vehicles?

Or should we just cool our heels until autonomous vehicles take over our streets?

Personally, I won't be satisfied until my parcels are delivered by a courier wearing a jet pack!

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