Most cars sit idle 95 percent of the time, which begs the question: do we really need to own them? Even a major auto maker like General Motors thinks it may not be necessary.
This week, the Detroit auto maker expanded its Maven car-sharing service to Los Angeles, offering 60 cars for by-the-hour rentals at 24 locations, mostly Downtown, including Little Tokyo, Staples Center and USC.
"GM’s position is the auto industry is going to change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50, so GM can do a couple things," said Dan Grossman, chief operating officer of GM's Maven City car-sharing program.
"They can spend money on incentives and marketing and advertising to convince people that really don’t want to buy a car and aren’t ready to buy a car to buy a car. Or we can get ahead of it and try to create a car share brand like Maven."
Maven is an app-based service that lets drivers reserve and rent cars by the hour or the day. Drivers download the app to their phones and sign up with a driver's license and credit card. Once a car has been reserved, the driver's phone serves as the car's key.
"LA is a great market for car sharing," Grossman said. "The last two mayors have done a really good job beefing up transit, the bus lines. There’s more attention to it, so I think the city’s become more walkable, more bikeable, and that fits in perfectly with car sharing."
While Maven City is offering various Chevys, including the new Bolt EV, it’s also offering almost every model of Cadillac. Pricing ranges from $8 to $24 per hour. Rentals can last up to 24 hours and include fuel, insurance and 180 miles.
Similar in operation to Zipcar, a car-sharing service that has been available on the USC and UCLA campuses since 2006 and throughout the city of LA since 2011, Maven holds the potential to ease traffic congestion by reducing the number of personal cars on the road.
"We have a goal as part of the sustainable city plan to reduce the number of single occupant trips to about half of the trips on the road," said Seleta Reynolds, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.
"Right now that number is closer to 80 percent," Reynolds added. "There are some studies that show car sharing programs help people reduce car ownership by somewhere in the ratio of 5 to 1 and as the city grows, and the city is going to continue to grow, we can’t have every single person bring their own vehicle."