Those who predicted and hoped shared autonomous cars would rule the roads by 2020 are in for a serious reality check. Driverless technology is much farther away than expected, and one of the largest car-sharing programs, Share Now, announced it will end its operations in North America and select international cities in early 2020 due low adoption rates.
We should have seen this coming when Car2Go, a division of Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler, surprisingly merged with Drive Now, a comparable program created by arch nemesis BMW, to become Share Now. It’s rarely a good sign when rivals set aside their differences and hold hands. The jointly-owned firm explained it will cease operations in the United States and Canada on February 29, 2020, and it’s not planning on coming back for the time being.
Share Now wrote a number of reasons forced it to shut down, including the volatile state of the global mobility landscape, and the rising infrastructure complexities facing North American transportation. It cited the rapidly-evolving competitive mobility landscape, the lack of a necessary infrastructure to support new technologies, and rising operating costs as examples of the challenges it faced as it tried to gain a secure foothold in our market. That’s a long-winded way of saying it’s not making enough money because most motorists don’t want to share a car.
In the United States, Share Now’s most direct competitor is ZipCar, which plans to stick around for the time being. That’s assuming someone wants to drive to get from point a to point b. Those who don’t have numerous other alternatives, including ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, and the growing number of app-based scooter- and bike-sharing services. Driving on your own provides unmatched freedom, but ride-hailing is more practical than car-sharing because you don’t have to worry about where to park, whether someone will back into a car that’s not yours, and so on.
Don’t delete the Share Now app quite yet if you’re planning on traveling abroad in the near future. The company will exit the American market, and it will shut down its operations in London, Brussels, and Florence, but it will continue to exist in 18 major European cities including Paris, Vienna, Helsinki, and Copenhagen.