Research & Development – peer-to-peer car sharing

Creating a new way of car sharing: Car Next Door’s Research and Development agenda

We are conducting on-going research into the development of a Peer to Peer (P2P) car sharing platform for Car owners in the community (Owners) and those that do not own cars (Borrowers). This page presents an overview of what we are working to achieve; what we have learned and achieved so far, and where we are headed next.

Benefits of peer-to-peer car sharing

The benefits of peer-to-peer car sharing are many. By making more efficient use of existing cars, we can dramatically reduce the number of cars needed to serve our community’s transport needs. This unlocks space and money for more high-value uses. Sharing cars also provides low-cost mobility for people in a range of areas where traditional car sharing is not viable. CND’s aim is to maximize vehicle utilization, creating economic and environmental benefits.

We are finding innovative solutions to the problems that have faced peer-to-peer car sharing around the world

Research

The barrier that all peer-to-peer car share platforms around the world have faced until now is how to provide a cost-effective way to turn existing, under-utilised vehicles into functioning share cars. There are two key parts to the challenge:

  • Providing access to vehicles in a way that is secure; does not require Owner and Borrower to meet; and is linked to the online booking platform.

  • Providing a total integrated system that includes booking, car locating, key access, payment, tracking and analysis; and that verifies the identity, trust, safety and compatibility of community members.

Car Next Door’s model is more efficient, cost-effective and secure than any of the others that are currently in use. We are actively developing technology and products to provide all the following in the one system: Lockbox key transfer technology, GPS car locating and logistics, listing and booking, driver identification, driver tracking, usage and reporting.

We are also working to improve the convenience of using the service (including tracking, online pre-trip cost calculation, trip analytics), improved security, and integrating lockbox technology and booking functionality.

Our patent-pending electronic lockbox system is a key element of our system. It gives borrowers and owners safe, secure and measureable access to vehicles. The aim of this project is to create a community car sharing platform that can be trusted to safely and appropriately match cars not in use with borrowers that need a vehicle, thus enhancing existing car use.

Due to the complex nature of the project, CND has experimented with various prototypes and offerings and continues to experiment with new software and hardware in order to determine the optimal make up of the platform. As a result, CND is constantly developing new knowledge around access, security and functionality required in the platform. CND is spending considerable time developing a further understanding of car sharing requirements to improve the way the model and platform function.

This process requires constant research and development in order to maximize the collaborative power of new innovations entering the market and for CND to be in a position to provide an effective and unique platform for Owners and Borrowers. Research continues to be carried out with significant user testing on both the Owner and Borrower side. CND will continue to develop new and innovative features of the platform whether it be software, industrial design or a combination of both.

Our key achievements to date

We have a long way to go towards our mission of building a world-leading peer-to-peer car sharing platform – but we are proud of what we have achieved already:

  • Developed the Lockbox and taken out the world wide patent for the lockbox and GPS combination for use in P2P car sharing. We are continually developing and refining new IP that utillses this technology.
  • Created a new online ‘dashboard’ to make it easy for owners to manage their car
  • Developed powerful searching and filtering capabilities to help Borrowers find the car they need
  • Created a unique automated, high-security borrower application system that performs facial recognition and performs credit and positive ID checks, to improve the level of trust and security across the platform;
  • Created a new system to manage the recording and reporting of damage to cars;
  • Created a suite of administrative tools that turn jobs that were taking us 10 minutes into jobs that now take 5 seconds;
  • Created a proprietary GPS tracking system – we know where our cars are all of the time, and can use this to make our customer service more efficient.
  • Overhauled the way we manage reservations (state-machine approach)

What's next?

We are working towards creating a sustainable peer-to-peer car sharing platform. To do this, we need to continue to research and innovate in a number of areas:

  1. Make customer service more efficient and effective, while maintaining a great service for our members, by:
    • Inventing and testing many functions that mean that users can do many things for themselves that we currently do for them
    • Analysing customer behaviour to work out which tests to attempt next. Get user feedback, iterate again.
    • Brainstorming new ways for us to do internal processes to reduce the time taken to do them dramatically.
  2. Attract and onboard Owners and Borrowers more easily, quickly and cheaply, by:
    • Inventing and trialling new systems to enable onboarding to happen in a more automated way, requiring less time and effort from Car Next Door, while being more appealing for Users.
    • Testing and measuring new marketing strategies
    • Testing and iterating ways to help people who are interested in joining Car Next Door become vetted members as easily and quickly as possible.
  3. Reduce the incidence and cost of damage to vehicles, for the benefit of the whole platform, by:
    • Creating a driver rating system – so that if a member causes damage, we can re-weight their risk
    • Monitoring driving behaviour through the GPS device to measure harsh driving, and integrating a system of real-time alerts;
    • Reviewing the application details of people who had have accidents
    • Analysing our data to identify high-risk vehicle types so that we can remove them from the platform
  4. Other areas we are planning to focus our development efforts on include:
    • Using GPS functionality and automatic notifications to eliminate the chance of a late member putting another member out; and
    • The use of algorithms to reduce the risk of non-payment by Borrowers