The sharing economy and collaborative models
City-dwellers are increasingly abandoning their cars and using alternative ways of getting about. And they don't necessarily want to own these alternatives. The startups that took part in the EDF Pulse Awards understood this fact, providing a range of solutions to a major urban challenge – creating the conditions for sustainable, easy-to-access transportation. Inspired by Vélib, Paris's bicycle sharing system, and by peer-to-peer car rental, startup after startup set out their own vehicle sharing apps. "There are services for bikes, electric bikes, scooters, electric scooters, self-balancing scooters, electric unicycles," says Olaf Maxant, deputy head of innovation at EDF's Innovation Hub, reeling off the list with a smile.
As cities turn away from cars, the concept of sharing has spread unexpectedly, now even being applied to parking places. So why not rent out spare places in a town hall or company car park – or even residents' spaces? The underlying system behind a number of smart parking projects is the same: an app puts parking place owners in touch with those who need the space. But in general, it was practical issues – such as the existence of a universal door control or appropriate payment collection software – that made all the difference in the selection committee's view.
Following in the footsteps of the pioneers of these models, the projects either focused on making vehicles available at public stations or, more commonly, peer-to-peer rental. But are citizens ready to rent out their property for others to use? It was a debate that arose from time to time among the jury. Thinking back to the reluctance surrounding the very popular Blablacar, Drivy, AutoLib and AirBnB when they first started out was enough to allay concerns. "A lot of applications are centred around users sharing knowledge, objects, and space at home," Olaf Maxant says with satisfaction. "The concept of ownership is undergoing profound change."