2.1 Sharing Economy

The term ‘sharing economy’ or ‘collaborative consumption’ describes a situation in which strangers share idle assets through enabling technology and platforms in ways that produce economic, environmental, social and practical benefits (Rinne, 2018). Sundararajan (2016) argues that three main technological developments have enabled the emergence of the sharing economy, these being: 1) the ability to render physical things (money, music, manufacturing processes) as digital information, with 2) increasingly powerful and compact hardware and 3) the spread of modular software applications that build on each other. Most sharing economy platforms have some common technology-enabled features, they are available as mobile apps, they allow cashless transactions, they allow sellers and seekers to rate each other and make those ratings available to both and they use dynamic pricing to adapt to supply-demand changes (Narasimhan, et al., 2017). 

There are two types of product service systems: usage product service systems and extended-life product service systems (Botsman and Rogers, 2011). Usage product service systems describes when a product is owned by a company or individual and multiple users share its benefits through a service. Typical scenarios are when the product is idle or not in use for long periods such as cars or household tools; when the product has limited use due to changes in fashion trends or seasons such as clothes or accessories; or if the item fulfils a temporary need such as equipment needed for a baby or child at different ages; or when the product diminishes its appeal and value after use such as a watched film; and when high start-up or purchasing costs for products are the barrier to entry as with solar panels. Extended-life product service systems describe when an after sales service such as maintenance, repair or upgrading becomes an integral part of a product’s life cycle, which reduces the disposal or replacement, such as electronic goods or furniture. 

Information and communications technologies have enabled the rise of so-called “Collaborative Consumption”: the peer-to-peer-based activity of obtaining, giving, or sharing access to goods and services, coordinated through community-based online services. (Hamari, et al., 2015). One of the earliest proponents of open source software, posited that open source technology could mitigate the ‘tragedy of the commons’ – the idea that when we act solely in our own interest we deplete the shared resources we need for our quality of life – through what he termed ‘commons-based peer production’ (Benkler, 2002).

2.1.1 Sharing products and services

In the literature review we were interested in exploring who people want to share what with, when and in what context. We also inquired what the boundaries of sharing are in relation to the idea of the extended self, identity, trust and ownership. We intended to find out how the sharing economy had changed the relationships people have with products that they previously would have owned and now rented, lent or borrowed from service providers and people they know or do not know. In buying a product the owner is committing to a brand, including what that brand extension is and how the brand is perceived. To others the brand communicates the owner’s status in society connected to their perceived lifestyle, financial position, social status and aesthetic preference.

The relationship between physical products, individual ownership and self-identity is undergoing a profound revolution. “We want not the stuff but the needs or experiences it fulfils, …we can show status, group affiliation and belonging without necessarily having to buy physical objects.” (Botsman and Rogers, 2011). Not owning products allows people to have more flexibility of what they choose to use at any one time without being committed to one product or service. They can reflect their identity in various ways for different occasions such as hiring a small vehicle for short trips or a larger one for family excursions or a high end model for special occasions. Russell Belk’s theoretical review distinguishes between sharing in and sharing out, and suggests that ‘sharing in’ extends ‘the circle of people who can enjoy the benefits of the shared resource’ while ‘sharing out’ is seen as ‘dividing a resource among discrete economic interests’ which doesn’t involve expanding the extended self (Belk, 2010). People are willing to share more, more important and more private things with others whom they consider to be part of their extended self.

2.1.2 Motivations for sharing

We questioned what motivates people to share, perhaps for financial or environmental reasons, or not wanting to be responsible for or feeling burdened by ownership of products, or the flexibility that can be enjoyed by doing so, or desiring to be part of a community. Looking at the literature we found that people have intrinsic motivations for sharing – value or enjoyment related to the activity – or extrinsic motivations – external pressures such as reputation and monetary gain. Phipps et al (2013) suggests that there are four key motivations, two intrinsic and two extrinsic – sustainability (intrinsic), enjoyment (intrinsic), reputation (extrinsic), economic (extrinsic).

However, there is a gap between people’s attitudes and behaviours in similarly motivated sharing activities (Phipps et al, 2013).

  • Sustainability significantly influences people’s attitude but doesn’t have a direct association with behavioural intentions.
  • Enjoyment has a significant positive effect on both attitude and behavioural intention to participate in collaborative consumption services.
  • Gains in reputation doesn’t significantly affect either attitude or behavioural intention to participate in collaborative consumption services.
  • Gain of economic benefits doesn’t have a significant effect on attitude but does have significantly positive direct influence on intention to participate in collaborative consumption.

Our research focused on the real motivations that can drive people to become a shared mobility user who enjoys sharing. Tacit expressions about what they like or not, why they are willing to accept or against the current sharing systems are the key indicators for us to follow.

2.1.3 Automotive applications

The positive benefits of the sharing economy include: the increased use of underutilised products and resources, a sense of being part of a community, supporting sustainability, a more democratic distribution of access to products and services that previously may not have been accessible for some people. For those employed in sharing economy ventures they can feel more liberated and choose when they want and are available to work. However, there appear to be several negative aspects related to current models of the sharing economy, which include concerns over issues such as changing local infrastructures and cultures caused by platforms such as Airbnb and Uber. From an employment aspect there is the potential for the loss of jobs, lowering of wages, additionally as workers are treated as independent contractors not employees they have less rights and fewer benefits such as holiday and sickness pay. There may be discrepancies in the quality of the service or product due to lack of regulations which is one reason why it has been described as ‘disruptive’. 

We were particularly interested in the influence these factors may have on existing vehicle sharing schemes and how they may evolve in the future. A significant factor that has contributed to the rise in the sharing economy is enabling technologies and new technological developments. The coordination of big data, platforms that connect people and resources, social networks and geo-tracking have supported and driven this rise. Automotive industry has gained speed on implementing these technologies in producing new vehicles but very few have done so for exploring shared vehicle spaces and services.

2.2 Shared Mobility

We wondered if the sharing economy will happen at scale in the automotive industry and, if so, what impact that will have on the design of vehicles and service innovations. We grouped the relevant literature findings under the themes of the MORPH project: mobility, ownership, relationship, personalisation, hospitality. This enabled us to begin to build an overview of the current situation that could indicate design directions for the project. 

2.2.1 Mobility – the current situation

Individually owned vehicles are often underutilised. Research from Botsman and Rogers states that the average car is unused for twenty-two hours a day, noting that even when it is being used there are normally three empty seats (Botsman and Rogers, 2011). A UK government study shows that 96% average proportion of time that UK car is parked (UK Government Office for Science, 2019). This might indicate a huge potential for a dynamic shift to vehicle sharing. We found data that indicates that the most prominent sharing services are those based around accommodation and cars (The Economist, 2013). Additionally, that carpooling is the second-largest computer transportation system in the United States and accounts for one-sixth to one-eighth of work related trips (Benkler, 2004). Autonomous vehicles are already being road tested. The Economist suggests that the first self-driving vehicle you ride in will be shared, not owned (​The Economist, 2018). 

For every shared vehicle between nine and thirteen private cars are removed from the roads, either by members selling their personal vehicle or postponed automotive purchases. For some people fiddling with engines is half the fun but for most people the maintenance, cleaning, registration, repair, insurance and parking are an expensive chore. The American Automobile Association estimates that on average Americans and Europeans spend approximately 18 per cent of their income (or $8,000 a year) for one person to drive a medium-size car. That is more money than the average family spends on clothing, health care and entertainment combined. Average car users save an estimated £380 per month when they switch to car sharing (Botsman and Roo, 2011). 

2.2.2 Ownership – behavioural changes

We looked at the difference between sharing vehicles and the feeling of owning one’s own vehicle and found that there is an emerging generational trend that indicates that young people are losing their interest in car ownership as being important to their self-definition. They find car purchase, maintenance, and parking to be prohibitively expensive and increasingly would rather not have the hassle (Belk, 2013).

A behavioural analysis indicates that there is a gap between people’s attitudes and behaviour in similarly motivated sharing activities (​Hamari et al., 2015). In the 20th century humanity consumed products faster than ever with many people seeing their car as an extension of themselves (Botsman, 2010; Belk, 1988). Furby (1980) suggests that humans develop a stronger sense of self by learning to actively control objects in our environment rather than feeling controlled by them. Control or mastery, creation, and knowledge, are activities that connect humans with objects and to make them part of extended self. Clothing (Solomon 1986), housing (Jager, 1983) and automobiles are all acquired as a ‘second skin’ in which others may see us (Belk, 1988). Facilitating the growth of the sharing economy are trust, technology platforms and the trend to avoid the ownership of assets (Standing, Standing and Bierman 2018).

2.2.3 Relationship between user, vehicle and brand

The importance for automotive brands to build and maintain a relationship with their customers in the future of vehicle sharing will be critical to ensuring their longevity. We questioned how the relationship between user-vehicles and user-brands can be reshaped from a user-vehicle point of view. From a user-brands point of view, reputation systems to help services build trust with their customers are vital to sharing models. All sharing services rely on ratings and reciprocal reviews to build trust among their users (The Economist, 2013). Providing a secure platform for financial transactions is critical but creating a trusting community is just as important to attract users (The Economist, 2013). Potential barriers to using sharing services are over-regulation, inconsistent quality of service and the need for recommendation (Standing, Standing and Bierman, 2018).

We found that business-to-consumer car sharing companies seek to develop relationships with the cities they operate in to obtain preferential parking spaces at a discount or for free, reduce tolls or to be able to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes (​Cohen and Kietzmann,2014). Belk (2013) suggests that companies should regard changing technologies and environmental trends as bringing opportunities rather than threats; they should be asking themselves “How else can the consumer acquire and use the types of goods or services I currently provide and how might I innovate to capitalise on these possibilities?”. 

2.2.4 Personalisation – connecting individuals to integrated services

We have already discussed a new generational trend emerging where people do not feel compelled to own possessions to endorse their identity. However, automotive companies still need to connect on a personal level with their users, which could be through the use of personal data. During short-ownership periods there is a connection when the user is active with the vehicle or services, but periods of disconnection when they are not using them. We considered how vehicle design could use personal data to address this.

Through internet technology development businesses can connect with their users and gather data that they can use to target them in a personalised way. The data collected by companies from the purchase or services people use, allows for products and services to be increasingly ‘tailored’ to fit the individual context of each user. There is an increasing resistance among consumers to their data being shared and used beyond their control. A recent survey found that 91% of respondents were concerned about the amount of data that companies can collect about them (Microsoft Corporation 2020:6). Van der Klauw (2019) suggests that lack of trust is the principal barrier to the growth of the Internet of Things, while Privacy International (2019) shows how the economically disadvantaged are at greater risk of their data being illicitly harvested.

As the online brands we used to define ‘who we are’ and ‘what we like’, actual ownership becomes less important than demonstrating use or use by association. We can now show status, group affiliation and belonging without necessarily having to buy physical objects. Our relationship to satisfying what we want and signalling who we are is far more immaterial than that of any previous generation (​Botsman, 2011​).

2.2.5 Hospitality – communicating service features with users

We considered how hospitality could influence and encourage people to use mobility sharing services. Roe’s research into car clubs conducted expert interviews with service designers in order to evaluate the role service design might play in enticing more people to consider the use of such mobility services in the future (Roe, 2017). 

One of the issues is trust for the users in the systems and in sharing with others whom they do not know. This new economy is reshaping society creating more decentralized systems, and raising questions about how to build trust within them (Sundararajan, 2015). For a brand to build trust with their users the experience of the user is critical. This can be enhanced by the development of experientially transferable design – products that can move between users and users without negative consequences (Baxter, Aurisicchio and Childs, 2017). Experientially transferable design considers emotional durability but also the resilience with which a product can be used by multiple people and maintain a positive (or at least neutral) user experience. An example of this is seen in cars which adjust mirrors, seat positions, radio stations and other settings to suit a specific driver helping develop feelings of ownership and personal space (Baxter et al., 2015). This hospitality helps car sharing users have a more pleasant experience.

2.3 Project positioning

To explore our themes (mobility, ownership, relationship, personalisation and hospitality) and ideas for the future of shared mobility we investigated the development of mobility services that have been operating in recent years, additionally how the automotive companies have responded and are responding by creating mobility services and ultimately by designing new vehicles.

2.3.1 Emerging sharing services

New shared mobility models currently operate using apps and rating systems which were created by technology companies using existing vehicle models. Examples are ride-hailing and car pooling (BlaBlacar, Didi, Uber, UberPool and Zimride), bus-taxi hybrid (City Mapper’s ‘Smart ride’), car rental club (Zipcar) and peer-to-peer car rental (Turo and Getaround – previously Drivy). Cohen and Kietzmann (2014) discuss existing shared mobility business models to try to establish the optimal relationship between service providers (agents) and the local governments (principles) to achieve the common objective of sustainable mobility.

2.3.2 Shared mobility services from automotive companies

The automotive brands have responded to this shift in mobility services driven by technology companies by developing their own shared mobility services. They have diversified their offer by providing products and services that support their customers lifestyles, such as; ride-sharing and ride-pooling on-demand (eg. MOIA), ride-hailing, autonomous electric robotaxis (Tesla and Renault), smart, high performance, autonomous electric vehicles rented by the month (NIO), autonomous, electric mobility as a service with customisable interiors (Toyota) and sustainable urban mobility services such as BMW car-sharing, ride-hailing, parking, charging and multimodal services (BMW and Daimler). 

2.3.3 Shared mobility design

With the shift towards autonomous technologies and the acceptance of shared mobility, an opportunity exists to significantly redesign vehicles especially their interiors and services. Automotive companies are further responding to this trend by developing concept cars that address the potential for different activities to be conducted in vehicles when they are autonomous. Without the need for a driver the interior space is liberated and can be configured to allow passengers such as families or business people to interact in various ways when travelling. 

2.4 Identifying potential design directions

From the research we identified four areas that offered potential opportunities for vehicle design directions. These are: comfortable sharing mobility spaces, mini sharing mobility spaces, family sharing mobility spaces and business sharing mobility spaces. We then looked to find examples of concept vehicles as well as other modes of mobility, such as airlines and trains, that addressed these areas and which could have transferable design elements.

2.4.1 Comfortable spaces for multi-modal communities

Airlines offer different levels of comfort for sharing travellers, offering basic seating provision and space for passengers in economy, with more luxurious and spacious areas in business and first class. PriestmanGoode’s interior cabin design for Air France’s La Premiere suites (2014), for their Boeing 777 – 300 aircraft, provides individual suites for travellers within the shared mobility space. These multi-use suites each have a private wardrobe, under seat storage, comfortable seat and footrest that converts into a bed. Additionally, there is on-screen entertainment, console storage and lighting options.

2.4.2 Mini sharing mobility spaces

In 2019 Citröen showcased Ami One Concept. It is an ultra-compact electric concept car which could potentially be used by unlicensed drivers as its top speed is only 28mph. It is intended that it would be available on-demand through an app for trips ranging from five minutes to five hours. It has a range of sixty five miles and could be charged at home or at charging stations.

2.4.3 Family sharing mobility spaces

Some mobility providers are creating a ‘home away from home’ such as Renault’s concept car EZ-ULTIMO which is intended for shared mobility, is autonomous, connected and fully electric with space for up to three people. The interior is designed to create an intimate cocoon with the passengers feeling like they are in a living room. The exterior is partially composed of diamond shaped facets that work as a one-way mirror, protecting passengers privacy while being transparent from the inside. Similarly, NIO’s electric, autonomous concept car ‘Eve’ is designed as a living space for up to six people that adapts to the passengers’ needs and moods powered by Artificial intelligence.

2.4.4 Sharing mobility spaces for business

Mobility providers are designing the interiors of autonomous vehicles as mobile working spaces. IDEO’s WorkOnWheels concept vehicle and the redesigned carriages of the ÖBB Austrian Federal Railway consider the design and function of flexible working and meeting spaces in transportation. The WorkOnWheels interior can be reconfigured on request as a hub to accommodate less or more people and for different work activities. The windows can become opaque to provide privacy or can be darkened when screen presentations are being made. The daytime carriages of ÖBB Federal Railway have family and business berths where passengers can sit together, have meetings and work. A restaurant carriage has multi-use areas that allow for bike and ski storage too.

2.5 Conclusions

A variety of shared mobility options are available today that operate either as independent businesses or are affiliated with an existing automotive brand. They mostly use apps and rating systems to coordinate their vehicles with customer demands. A general consensus is that people have trust issues when sharing vehicles with people they don’t know although there are several positive reasons for doing so.

The key enablers of the sharing economy are enabling technology, the internet, personal devices and data processing technologies. Data allows products and services to be increasingly ‘tailored’ to fit into each individual context but do people know or trust this? The use of personal data in terms of providing connection or disconnection during short-ownership periods seems to be an important topic for future sharing services and how the brands maintain and develop further their relationships to the users through data use and the services that they offer. There are opportunities in mobility sharing to explore customisation for the users as well as the use of materials as ways to connect the vehicle and its users.


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Research Team and Acknowledgement

The MORPH core research team includes Dr. Jiayu Wu, Dr. Sheila Clark, Ashley Kennard, Daniel Quinlan, Katrine Hesseldahl and Sam Johnson. The service designers are Hyojin Bae and Nayoon Lee. The concept designers are Patryk Musielak (NANO), YoungJae Kim (MOSEY), Jiaheng Wei (ENROUTE) and Dinesh Raman (SPAREVROOM). 

MORPH was sponsored by Hyundai-Kia. The financial support enabled the Intelligent Mobility Design Centre of the Royal College of Art to conceive and explore new areas in transport experiences, vehicle design, digital technology integration, mobility systems and other research topics. We would like to thank Hyundai Motor’s German and Korean offices for their involvement in feedback and review during the research.

Special thanks to Dr. Cyriel Diels, Professor Stephen Boyd Davis and Professor Dale Harrow for reviewing and providing feedback during the research and for the final report.

Finally a special thank you to William Renel for designing the MORPH website, Jane Savory, Hannah Adeuya and Lulu Ishaq for managing the finance and logistics.

Launched in 2016 at the Royal College of Art, the Intelligent Mobility Design Centre (IMDC) leads research at the intersection of people, mobility and technology within a complex and changing urban and global environment.

The Royal College of Art is ranked the No. 1 art and design university by the QS World University Rankings, 2021.

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