One of the biggest problems with private cars is that they are underused. The average occupancy of a car in Britain is 1.2, and globally it’s 1.5. Most of the world’s car are driving around with empty seats, often taking just one person to work, or out on an errand. Every empty seat in a car is wasted capacity – if we could double up and fill more of those seats, there would be fewer cars on the roads. It would lower fuel use and CO2 emissions.
Is there anything we can do about this?
That’s a question that the French developers of BlaBlaCar asked themselves back in 2003, and they launched their ride-sharing service three later. It’s now operating in 22 different countries and has over 35 million members.
BlaBlaCar works on the principle that if you’re traveling somewhere, there’s a strong likelihood that someone else is going to travel the same route on the same day. The problem is that we don’t know who. BlaBlaCar serves as a broker, allowing anyone to register a long distance car journey and offer a seat. Others can then claim them, and pay a fair share of the travel expenses.
Like many sharing economy platforms, BlaBlaCar needs trust to function. Not everyone wants to jump into a stranger’s car, so the site has profiles and allows users to rate each other.
There are a variety of car sharing platforms out there, but BlaBlaCar has managed to reach critical mass. In France one in five adults are members of the scheme, helped along by a railway strike a few years ago. Russia and India are huge markets where BlaBlaCar is doing well. It’s less popular in Britain, but it’s a useful solution to our empty car problem. It won’t work for everyone. But if you think it might work for you, give it a try.