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Car sharing push required in London

Date: 22 February 2018   |   Author: Rachel Boagey

Several developments in the transport sector mean that London's network is in the midst of a major upheaval. But the city has been caught unawares by the application of new technology. This is the opinion of London Assembly's Transport Committee, which recently held a conference at the Assembly building to make recommendations on how the sector can keep up with developments such as car sharing, in order to make the city cleaner and less congested. 

During the conference, the Transport Committee drew attention to its newest report, entitled 'Future Transport'. The report makes recommendations to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London (TfL) to ensure the city is ready for the future. 

The report found that the introduction of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) onto London roads was potentially the biggest change in the way people used cars, but with traffic congestion increasing to unacceptable levels in recent years, it is vital that CAVs do not simply provide a like-for-like replacement for private cars. 

"There is a good opportunity to increase car sharing as these cars are introduced," said Keith Prince, chairman of the Transport Committee. "Shared use of CAVs is likely to be the most sustainable way of harnessing this technology in London. TfL can make steps now to encourage car sharing, to embed this as a part of the transport network."

The Transport Committee believes that the mayor and TfL should now produce an update to their car club strategy in 2018-19, which reflects the mayor's new transport strategy "and specifically consider how to embed car sharing in the context of the potential emergence of CAVs," Prince explained. 

"It is crucial, and possible, to ensure the introduction of CAVs is beneficial for London. The mayor's draft transport strategy indicates his support for car clubs, but is short of detail on specific measures he will take to increase membership or encourage boroughs to facilitate their provision." 

David Wong, senior technological and innovation manager at SMMT, also placed car sharing at the forefront of technological developments that the city should be focusing on. "We predict that car sharing users will go from the 200,000 registered members in 2015 to around 2.5 million in 2025, which is interesting because, going forward, the industry is going to have to start looking beyond just cars to connected mobility solutions," he said.

But the challenge that comes with this in the UK capital is gaining provisions for car sharing schemes. These still remain scarce in some areas, especially outer London, and car clubs face many difficulties such as getting agreements from councils on parking spaces. 

Wong explained, "What is critical is what our vehicle manufacturing members have experienced in running car sharing services. They have been telling us that, because of the fragmentation of the boroughs in London and sometimes conflicting priorities, they have run into various stumbling blocks in terms of deploying car sharing services.

"One of them exited the London and UK market altogether a few years ago for largely the same reasons: they just could not make car sharing work, despite how promising car sharing services are, because of the conflicting priorities of these London boroughs."

The conclusion at the conference was that it was crucial and possible to ensure the introduction of CAVs was beneficial to London. 

"Given the looming development of CAVs, we believe there should be a renewed focus on this area from government to help embed car clubs as a viable transport option," said Prince. 

Wong agreed. "The key behind all this is ensuring an integrated push from all bodies on car sharing," he said. "We still have to think about how we can make this service work for everybody, including businesses, the automotive industry, service providers and fleet operators. When it does have this collaborative approach, we will be able to move forward in its development and create a cleaner, less congested city."