Car sharing services are nothing new. Plenty of urban residents have relied on the cost-saving convenience that comes with joining a local service that allows them to “check out” a car only when they need it (for going to the grocery store or a cross-town doctor appointment, for example) and forego the major expenses associated with owning a car (including not only loan payments, registration, and insurance, but often parking in a crowded downtown area). Much of the time, people involved in these programs work in the area they live in and utilize public transportation. But on those rare occasions when they need a more personal mode of transport they can simply sign up for a vehicle and pick it up from a local garage, rather than shelling out beaucoup bucks for a cab or trying to find someone with a car and finagle a ride. And while Wheelz fits a similar mode to such car sharing services, it actually cuts out the middle man by creating a peer-to-peer (or P2P) experience.
You might not think that you’re familiar with the P2P model, but chances are you’ve had more opportunity to use it than you might realize. For example, anyone who has used Craigslist to shop for furniture rather than going to a retail store has taken advantage of a P2P platform. And if you’ve rented a room via Airbnb, a service that lets homeowners post lodgings for rent as though they were running a bed and breakfast, then you’ve certainly conducted a P2P business transaction. The long and short of this business model is that it takes buyers directly to sellers, cutting out actual businesses almost entirely. Of course, there is the aspect of facilitation offered by any web-based service that helps users to find one another, but your actual transaction occurs within your group of peers, so to speak, which is what makes this model different from traditional commerce.
So how does Wheelz work? It is ostensibly a way for people who own cars to loan them out to those who need a car for a while, generally when they’re not in use by the owner. For example, suppose your car is parked outside your office all day long while you work. Would you like to use it to earn some passive income while providing a much-needed service to a nearby resident who needs a car to run errands? Wheelz can connect you to the person looking to rent your car for a few hours during the day so that you can make a little extra money and they can get their travel-related tasks done. And the transaction is completed simply enough thanks to a DriveBox installed in your car that lets paying members find, access, and start your vehicle using their smartphones.
The only real difference between Wheelz and other car rental services like it is that users share cars that are owned by private parties, as opposed to a garage full of vehicles that are owned by a corporation. This is not to say that there aren’t potential legal issues related to such sharing. Suppose someone takes your car on a joyride and crashes it, for instance. But there’s also the potential for car owners to supplement their income, much like taking on boarders as a way to pay their mortgage. Imagine bringing your car to work and instead of paying to park it in a lot all day, you hand it off to someone who pays you for its use and then drops it off in time for you to make the evening commute. While you might be inclined to secure some type of additional car sharing insurance, the passive income provided by P2P car sharing could just be enough to make signing up for Wheelz well worth your while.