Car sharing history. Who came up with it first and how does it work today?

It might sound like a brand-new idea, but the concept of car sharing was first developed in Switzerland in 1946 when a small Zurich housing cooperative tried to implement this service. It didn’t last very long. Theft, accidents and a lack of accountability all contributed to the service being dismantled.

Things are very different today. Our concept is simple: download an app, book your car 15 minutes in advance and pick it up from the nearest reserved GoTo parking bay.

We have a fleet of 150 electric cars stationed around Malta and Gozo. Just in case you might have missed us, all our vehicles have a massive purple lightning bolt emblazoned on the side, but we are no flash in the pan!

You then use the app to unlock your car and off you go. With rates as cheap as €0.28 per minute, you can see how affordable it would be to pick up your mates and share the cost of the trip. You also don’t have to worry about parking because there are reserved bays all over Malta and Gozo.

Although the concept petered out in the post-war years, it was resurrected in Europe in the 1960s and 70s. Businesses saw there was an opportunity in the market because not everyone could afford their own private vehicle due to a biting recession.

Petrol was also expensive at the time and the initiatives all spluttered and came to a stop – much like your grandad’s Ford Escort Mark 1 before he sold it to a collector.

The 80s and 90s were boom decades for the private vehicle industry and the only operators that registered some success were not-for-profit organisations, which a-tracted the fledgling Green Movement.

No one could find a business model that delivered affordable and reliable shared transport. But technology was about to change all that. It was in fact a shared bicycle company in the UK that made the breakthrough, but there’s still a backstory.

The first bike sharing initiative was set up in 1965 by anarchist groups in the Netherlands, called the White Bikes. The idea was to leave bicycles unlocked so others could use them to reduce pollution on the roads.

The White Bikes also featured in the 1969 Beds-Ins for Peace non-violent protest organised by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in Amsterdam. In 1996, Bikeabout found the technological breakthrough they needed at Portsmouth University. Users were issued with a card, which was needed to unlock the bikes, meaning that theft and vandalism was greatly reduced.

Once that system was refined, the car sharing concept was ready to take off in earnest. By the early 2000s, GPS technology was in full swing and car sharing companies had all the tools they needed to improve their services.

Fast forward to today and there are many car sharing companies around the world offering a seamless experience. People are realising that car sharing is cheaper than owning, maintaining and licencing your own car.

People are also much more conscious of the environment and air quality. In a country such as Malta, where the traffic problem has spread everywhere, clouds of pollution hang over us and parking is a living nightmare, car sharing is more than a viable option – it’s part of the solution.

By now, you will have no doubt heard about GoTo – Malta’s first electric car sharing service – and if you haven’t, this is the perfect time to find out more. Register and download the GoTo app (iOS, Android) to give one of our clean electric vehicles a go today!

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