The modern concept of the sharing economy has evolved not only based on a variety of quantifiable factors. The theoretical framework of the paper firstly highlights the concepts which are the closest to our understanding of sharing economy services. After this, there is a short collection of statistical data represented in order to underline the rationale of the analysis.
2.1. Modern Concepts in the Sharing Economy
With massive growth of cities, lack of parking space, traffic congestion and air pollution, sustainable urban transport has become a modern necessity. According to Suchanek and Szmelter-Jarosz, growing cities and their populations have become a challenge for today’s researchers, local authorities and business decision-makers. One of the problems troubling the current politics is meeting the requirements of sustainable transport, especially when urban residents present the opposite needs [4
]. This has given birth to car and bike sharing in urban and semi-urban areas. A variety of models of the sharing economy have emerged based on local conditions and the needs of customers. Growth of cities and populations are not the only increasing factors of a sharing economy. Consumer behavior, like new aspects in sustainable mobility or changing working habits, are also strengthening the need of sharing economies. These aspects include the weakening desire for ownership, economic stagnation and economic crises, reduction in disposable income due to growing unemployment, urbanization, evolution of new innovative sharing concepts, environmental considerations and availability of new technological tools and platforms [5
]. Consumption can be based on time, space or at a fixed price. The consumer chooses such access when they are not able to afford the objects in question, or they do not wish to own them for reasons of maintenance, space, cost and so forth. The consumer is acquiring consumption time with the item and, in market-mediated cases of access, is willing to pay a premium price for use of that object [6
]. Thus, the consumer–object relationship in access-based consumption may be different from that in ownership. The owner has the right to regulate or deny access to use, sell and to retain any profits yielded from the object’s use, as well as to transform its structure [7
According to Grondys, the sharing economy is treated as an alternative consumption model, aiming to increase the efficiency of the resources used and create a new value for society [8
]. Development of new technologies, particularly Internet, IT platforms, social media and IT applications have facilitated the evolution of this model. Fransi et al. hold the view that the sharing economy has become a new socioeconomic activity that allows the co-creation, production, distribution and consumption of goods and services between individuals, driven by Web 2.0 and e-word-of-mouth [9
]. Access-based services have emerged as an alternative and/or complementary to traditional ownership-based services and they are enabled by means of Smart Product–Service Systems (SPSSs) that integrate smart products and e-services into a single solution [10
According to Rifkin [11
], although a property continues to exist, it is less likely to be exchanged in the market. Instead of buying and owning properties and goods, consumers want access to goods and prefer to pay for the experience of limited and temporary access. As stated by Chen [12
] and Marx [13
], ownership is no longer the ultimate expression of consumer desire. During the last decade we have seen a proliferation of access systems in the market place that go beyond traditional forms of access. For example, access can be gained through memberships to clubs or organizations, where multiple products owned by a company can be shared [14
Modernity characterizes the current social conditions in which social structures and institutions are increasingly unstable and are undergoing change and therefore they cannot serve as frames of reference for human actions and long-term life strategies [16
]. Increasingly, institutions, people, objects, information and places considered solid during the last century have tended to dematerialize and liquidize [17
]. Similarly, consumer identity and ethics are also becoming more fluid. Values are constantly changing. Emotional, social and cultural ownership embedded in a property is becoming flexible, transient and liquid. Access has emerged as a way to manage the challenges of a liquid society [18
The increase in the costs of acquisition and maintenance for ownership over time, the instability in social relationships, as well as the uncertainties in the labor markets have rendered ownership a less attainable and more precarious consumption mode than it once was [19
]. Many people have started wondering why they should own when benefits could be enjoyed at a fraction of the total cost with easy access and no storage and maintenance requirements. With density as a major concern of the re-urbanization movement, sustainable development, apartments and condos have increased in city centers, offering alternatives to the long commutes and the reliance on cars that dominate suburban living [20
]. Urban settings have created a new set of problems that can be addressed by the sharing economy. Unlike earlier generations of information or technology-based enterprises, sharing enterprises rely on a critical mass of providers and consumers who are sufficiently close to each other or to other amenities to make their platforms work, often finding value in the very fact of the beneficial spill-overs from proximity [21
]. For example, Uber transports people from one common area to another without involving idle driving or parking requirements. The driver picks up the passenger from the nearest area and after dropping picks up another passenger where the previous passenger was dropped, almost eliminating idle driving or parking. Moreover, the passengers need not navigate the heavy traffic themselves, as is the case with self-driving.
Growing awareness of environmental issues has also played its role in the evolution of the sharing economy. Air pollution in cities due to the growing vehicular population has transformed the thinking process of at least a section of the population. This section, which is no longer environmentally conscious, wishes to add new vehicles, causing additional congestion and air pollution. According to the 2014 survey by the Center for the New American Dream, 90% of Americans believe that the way they live produce too much waste, and 70% agree that Americans consume more resources and produce more waste compared to other countries. A total of 60% agree that the sharing economy lowers environmental impact [22
]. Commenting on the environmental impact the report of Demailly [23
], “clothing, vehicles, furniture, telephones, televisions, toys, sporting goods, home improvement, and gardening tools are all examples of the shareable goods that represent about a quarter of household expenditure and a third of household waste, not to mention the energy used to produce them”.
Our understanding of the sharing economy highlights that it is an economic model which allows optimum use of individual and social assets and resources. The sharing economy in its present form is a relatively new phenomenon. Previous business models were based on the idea of complete ownership of assets and processes. Such ownership many times resulted in underutilization of assets and capacities which led to increased costs for the business enterprises and wastes of resources. The sharing economy is a highly flexible economic network that allows people to exchange tangible and intangible goods with one another in different forms of business models. Social, economic and environmental considerations are the driving force behind sharing economy models in the recent years. Socially, the desire for ownership has weakened; economically, individuals want to earn some income through temporary use their assets; and environmentally, such use helps in mitigating congestion and pollution. These models have taken a variety of forms depending on the needs of the people in different-sized countries and cities.
2.2. Evolution of the Sharing Economy through Car Sharing in Europe
Integration of digital technology with transport systems has further enhanced the transformation. Motor vehicles have provided mobility to people, goods and services in a way never seen before in the history of mankind. Today, almost 80% to 90% of the global population uses automobiles in one way or another. This movement has given birth to interactions between civilizations, cultures and customs. The tourism industry and businesses have expanded globally, across national borders. Products and services produced in any part of the world can have ingredients from many countries and continents. Similarly, finished products—agricultural as well as industrial—move rapidly across national borders. Even short shelf-life items like fruits, flowers and vegetables produced in one continent can be found in markets on another continent. The growth of the tourism industry has given rise to mélange and assimilation of cultures and customs. In short, the globalization process has been possible because of the growth of the automobile industry and its integration with digital technology. This has given birth to what is called smart transportation.
As the social status associated with car ownership became diluted and the problems of traffic jams, parking space, accidents and high operating costs (price of fuel, insurance cost, toll charges and parking fees, local air pollution, carbon dioxide emissions leading to climate change, noise pollution and road damage) started getting worse, people were forced to rethink car ownership. Moreover, there are millions who cannot afford to own a car but wish to use and experience car ownership for a limited duration on a payment basis. Environmental considerations due to very high CO2 emissions also played a role in reshaping the concept of car ownership. Another significant problem with the car ownership model is the inefficiency of their utilization. Most cars are designed to seat five people, however the normal occupancy is only one or two. Moreover, most cars are only utilized during a small part of the day, leaving them idle most of the time. All these considerations gave birth to what is known as car sharing. Many car sharing organizations (CSOs) or transport network companies (TNCs) were established in the 1990s, mostly in Europe. These car sharing organizations were initially supported by governmental grants. Their system was quite simple—a few vehicles were involved in shared usage by a group of individuals. Due to the lack of technology and the grassroots of the car sharing system being neighborhood-based programs, it was very difficult to transfer them into a business venture model. Urbanization, congestion and modern technology gave a boost to car sharing companies.
Historically, the first commercial car sharing can be traced to a cooperative known as “Sefage” (Selbstfahrergemeinschaft), which initiated services in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1948 and remained in operation until 1998 [24
]. This early effort was mainly motivated by economic reasons, since there were individuals who could not afford to purchase a car and instead preferred to share one. However, this was a limited experiment confined to a small area. Gradually the carsharing concept became popular in many European countries for the reasons given in the previous paragraph. New concepts and companies came into existence with different concepts of car sharing, including “Procotip” in France, 1971 to 1973; “Witkar” in Amsterdam, 1974 to 1988; “Green Cars” in Britain, 1977 to 1984; Sweden’s “Bilpoolen” in Lund, 1976 to 1979, “Vivallabil” in Orebro, 1983 to 1998; and a “bilkooperativ” in Gothenburg, 1985 to 1990 [25
According to Figure 1
, a BCG report shows in 2016, that car sharing in Europe will expand relatively quickly and widely. It is estimated that the number of people living in large urban areas will grow further, and this number will be around 81 million people in Europe and 385 million globally by 2021. About 46 million people in Europe will have a valid driving license and about 14 million people will be registered with a car sharing service. About 1.4 million people will be active users, who use the car sharing service several times per month.
A growing concern regarding climate change and a yearning for social embeddedness by localness and communal consumption has made the “collaborative consumption”/“sharing economy” an appealing alternative for consumers [28
]. The chart below (Figure 2
) provides a bird’s-eye view of the growth of car-sharing services in Europe.
Today, Europe is considered to be the largest car-sharing region based on membership, accounting for 46% of worldwide membership and 56% of global fleets [30
]. In recent years, the big automakers and car rental companies in Europe have joined hands to form car-sharing companies, to keep their hold on the market.