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Comment: Why the London exit of DriveNow must not deter the adoption of car sharing

The news that DriveNow UK’s operations in London will shut down by 29 February 2020 shows why it’s more important than ever for local authorities, businesses and drivers to support the adoption of eco- and cost-friendly car sharing services. By Patrick Cresswell, managing director, Ubeeqo UK.

Ubeeqo is disappointed to hear that fellow car sharing service DriveNow has announced it will cease operations next month in London. It continues to be difficult for car sharing providers to gain traction and expand in the capital, and a shift in uptake and support from local councils and TfL is necessary to encourage future growth. Car sharing has a crucial role to play in removing privately owned cars off the road and tackling issues such as air quality, congestion and parking pressure.

Our goal is to serve Londoners who want to give up their own vehicle, but want the certainty that there will be a car when and where they need it. Ubeeqo operates a round-trip service with a mix of fixed car club only bays and a unique geofence parking model. Our geofence vehicles “live” in a geofenced location, usually spanning over 1 or 2 streets, and the customer picks up and returns the vehicle to this area.

There are multiple benefits to this model; it operates easily within a single local authority area, the borough can easily manage the number of vehicles we own in the area (avoiding the ‘clustering issue’ of one-way), bookings can be made in advance right up until the customer needs to leave, and the bay is available for others to use when the Ubeeqo vehicle is on hire.

The ‘back to base’ approach of Ubeeqo eliminates the problem of one-way car club vehicles ending up at a destination, rather than where they started from, which means people who have given up their own vehicle can’t find a car club vehicle when they need it. This in turn takes the pressure off parking in areas outside of where the car club is operating.

And as all vehicles in the Ubeeqo fleet are specially adapted to include an RFID card access system, the cars can be booked via the Ubeeqo app or website and used by several different people throughout the day. They can also be booked for any length of time (over one hour) and insurance is even included in the price*.

During 2020, London Mayoral and Assembly Election year, it would be great to hear a clear role for car sharing articulated by Mayoral candidates, so that operators providing services that benefit London can play their role in tackling the on-going challenges presented by widespread car ownership. In tandem, the Mayor could encourage, or even mandate, all boroughs to reduce the costs of their staff using their own vehicles, many of which may not be ULEZ-compliant.

By keeping a focus on policy objectives local authorities should have confidence that a car sharing solution can continue to deliver tangible benefits for their citizens.

*minimum membership age is 21