Since its launch eight years ago, Daimler's Car2Go car-sharing service has expanded to multiple cities across Europe, the U.S., and China.
Daimler—parent company of Mercedes-Benz, Smart, and a handful of other brands—was one of the first automakers to get involved in car sharing, but several other manufacturers are showing interest as well.
Car sharing is essentially a short-term rental, with users subscribing to a service that gives them access to cars strategically placed in public areas.
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Along with ride-sharing services that allow users to hail rides, it's increasingly seen as a more convenient alternative to traditional car ownership in urban areas.
These services pose a threat to new-car sales, but they could also present a new revenue stream for automakers that operate services themselves.
For its part, Daimler expects Car2Go—which currently has about 2 million users worldwide—and car sharing in general to grow in the coming years.
Car2Go in Chongqing, China
That's one of six assumptions about the future of car sharing articulated by Car2Go Europe CEO Thomas Beermann in a recent statement on the business.
Other assumptions focus on other notable technology trends in the auto industry—including electric cars and autonomous driving.
Beermann cited a recent study by consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan, which claimed that the number of car-sharing users worldwide will increase from the current 7.9 million to 36.7 million by 2025.
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Much of this growth will be driven by increased urbanization, Beermann believes.
According to the World Bank, 6 billion people—around 1.5 times the current urban population—will live in cities by 2045.
Car ownership has long been a pain for city dwellers, thanks to traffic and lack of parking, while policymakers have grown increasingly concerned over the effect of air pollution from exhaust emissions on public health.
Car sharing grants users access to a car without having to find a permanent parking space for it or pay long-term ownership costs, and could potentially shrink the number of cars on city streets.
Car2Go's Beermann also believes that "the future of car sharing is electric."
The service already operates a fleet of 1,300 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive city cars in Europe, and previously used electric cars in San Diego before replacing them with gasoline models.
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In Madrid, Car2Go estimates that its 123,000 users eliminate 775 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year by driving electric cars.
Increased connectivity may also allow car-sharing operators to facilitate other services, such as the delivery of packages to shared cars, Beermann said.
Car2Go also expects to deploy self-driving cars in the future, potentially increasing the efficiency of its service.
Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion concept, 2015 Consumer Electronics Show
Autonomous driving and sharing services have been named a winning combination by many analysts because self-driving cars could eliminate costs and downtime associated with human drivers.
To wit, Car2Go believes autonomous vehicles would allow it to reduce its fleet by half, while still meeting the same levels of demand.
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It is unclear when the underlying technologies of autonomous driving will reach a level of maturity to enable mass deployment of fleets of shared vehicles, though.
But if that day ever comes, it will radically reshape the car industry as we know it.