Car sharing for a seamless mobility future

When Malaysians think about moving from one part of town to another, the first thought is that it will be with one’s own vehicle.

The use of public transportation is a second choice, and renting/sharing a vehicle is even further down the list.

This may not be the case anymore, as more and more Malaysians participate in the sharing economy via e-hailing services like Grab, as passengers or drivers.

In the span of over 3 years, Malaysians are also slowly but surely warming up to the idea of renting cars to move around within towns, within cities, and even across Malaysian states’ borders.

To clarify, just three years ago renting cars for transportation and travel was a huge and tedious process. The whole ‘journey’ begins with having to find a service that would even offer it competently and with convenient flexibility.

Then came the paperwork, understanding the legalese of terms and conditions, potential risks and penalties, contracts and before eventually being pronounced ‘fit enough’ to rent a car.

Thanks to technology, the paperwork, the red tape, and all the fogginess surrounding alternative transportation within Malaysia, is drastically reduced.

A seamless transportation future?

Alan Cheah, CEO of GoCar, a car-sharing service, likens GoCar’s cars to ‘community cars.’

Now, to understand community cars and car sharing requires looking at what other countries like Finland are doing.

For example, Aviapolis, an airport city in Finland, is currently developing solutions to reduce need for private cars and parking spaces, by creating a ride sharing service and other mobility and new transport solutions.

The idea here is to use what already exists via a sharing model, and besides reducing traffic and congestion, to ultimately also reduce carbon-emitting vehicles, in that area.

Joelle Chew, GoCar project leader had said, “Everyone knows car sharing is an alternative or cooler version of car rental.”

Now, one may think there is a fine line between sharing cars and renting cars.

Ironically, it is technology that is making the division more discernible, because thanks to technology, paperwork is eliminated, and there is a self-service element to the whole process, that really gives it a “sharing a car with the community” feel.

Mobility as a service

GoCar’s service is just one piece of the whole picture, an Utopian idea that we can move from one location to another by using transportation services, whenever and wherever we need it, without the messy registrations, the waiting queues, and with minimal hassle.

GoCar cars total over 600 now and they are located at over 270 locations currently. This number increases however on a weekly basis which is a positive considering the utopian end goal some among us would like to achieve.

But, utilisation is an important parameter to gauge as well.

The number of cars shared and how often they are shared at different locations have doubled on average since the service began 3 years ago, and Alan said that the GoCar fleet increases by an average of ten cars every week.

Once, there was even up to 80 locations pending activation for the GoCar service.

Health checks are also conducted at every location every week, to ensure benchmarket utilisation levels are achieved.

The next three year is still a growth phase for GoCar. The plan is to add more locations, add more cars, and also utilising their big data analytics and data infrastructure to enhance user experience, as well as user safety and overall security.

Challenges abound

“Especially now, Malaysians are receptive to the service. Uber and Grab paved the way to more Malaysians thinking ‘It’s so easy to use a mobile app to make my life easier,’” Alan shared.

Technology helps to address the convenience and trust concerns that users will have; for example the mobile app and technology integrated in Go Car vehicles, is custom built to track cars, lock cars, and deactivate GoCar accounts.

There are also sensors in the car for insurance and safety purposes.

But there is also a mindset challenge that needs to be addressed.

We, Malaysians still have a lot to learn about caring for property which we do not own and that we need to share with other members of the public.

Maybe, technology will have an answer for this, as well.