I was pondering signing up for Getaround.

Decided not to.

If I was living in a city and car-free, I could see myself using carsharing as a renter quite a bit. But right now, and from a car owner’s point of view, it’s just not at all a good idea.

I love the concept of communal property for the sake of efficiency, and even as a car-lover, I do see car ownership as a giant societal issue needing some disruption. I’m a hugely practical person, and if a tool (the car) costs me a giant chunk of my monthly income but is sitting around 90% of the time… well, then that’s a crappy tool and I’m an idiot for using it.

Ideally, from an efficien-holic point of view, Henry Ford wouldn’t have made the automobile affordable to all, the car wouldn’t have become a status symbol, the auto giants wouldn’t have lobbied Congress to kill public transportation infrastructure, and the Interstates wouldn’t have been built. Yes, that’s a invidious thing for me to say as a car guy, but if none of that occurred in the past century, I wouldn’t be a car guy today.

And as such, I would like to move on to the one big issue that concerns me. Yes, there are many smaller issues that still plague carsharing: Insurance, car entry, lack of ubiquity, revenue cut, etc. But Getaround and its competitors make at least a decent attempt to rectify them. I think the one big problem is in the technicality of automobiles.

Cars aren’t meant to be shared. That’s in terms of both how the automakers designed them and our current technological limitations. The automobile has to be taken care of; take a look at the ginormous auto-maintenance industry for evidence. When it’s your car, you take good care of it so that the next time you drive you’ll be comfortable and so in the long-term your car’s resale value doesn’t tank. When your car is driven by strangers every day, it becomes almost like a “Tragedy of the Commons.” You can be sure that there won’t be any outstanding damage, but you still have no idea what the renter could’ve done to your vehicle. Running over a curb too fast won’t show up when your renter returns your car, but months later you might find a wheel out of a alignment or dent on the rim. That’s why real rental companies pick out a narrow range of car models for their fleet; they know maintenance will be high and having many of the same model means parts can be ordered in bulk and the same procedure can be done over and over.

I say it’s a technical limitation as well because cars are still not appliances. People make fun of Toyota for making cars that run like appliances, but that’s what people want. Only the select car-infatuated few actually care about what’s under the hood and their torque rating and drive ratios. Corollas are popular because they get people from point A to B without fuss and last a darn long time. Automobiles have made many advancements in being more foolproof: Automatic transmission, power steering, drive-by-wire, plastic engine covers, push-to-start. Not enough though.

A car will be truly shareable when it’s like an iPod. No one knows there’s a PulseAudio chip and 32MB of RAM in there, but you can use it however you want and there’s no way you’ll cause damage.


Live every week with GIM (goal-in-mind)