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Getting Around: Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing Coming to Portland - December 20, 2011
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If you own a car, it's likely one of the biggest purchases you've made. And yet, for something that we spend so much money on, we don't actually use it all that often.

Most of the time (92 percent, according to car sharing proponents) it sits parked, doing nothing but depreciating in value.

Instead of just sitting there, what if your car could be providing you income when you're not using it?

That's the proposition of a new breed of car sharing companies known as "peer-to-peer car sharing". Car owners put their cars up for rent when not in use. Peer-to-peer car sharing companies act as matchmaker and broker, providing the website to find a car and executing the rental transaction between borrower and owner.

Proponents see it not only as a financial boon to car owners (peer-to-peer startup Getaround states that participating car owners earn $300-$400 per month on average), but also to budget and environmentally-minded folks who would rather not spend a trunkload of cash on an automobile.

Interested? Getaround announced yesterday that is partnering with the Federal Highway Administration, Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium and the Portland Bureau of Transportation to launch peer-to-peer car sharing in Portland early next year.

In addition to who owns the cars, peer-to-peer car sharing is both similar and different from car sharing v1.0 companies like Zipcar. Thanks to the Oregon Legislature, beginning on January 1, 2012, rental fees will include insurance (provided by Getaround) without affecting the car owners' private car insurance. Peer-to-peer rental fees vary more widely and are set by the car owner.

Getaround's Portland launch could benefit metro residents outside of the city core who don't have a Zipcar nearby. Since Getaround did not have to invest in a fleet of cars, they can operate just about anywhere. The service will launch at Portland State University in January 2012 and expand citywide in February.

Getaround was founded in 2009 as the class project of a group of students at Singularity University (a small university supported by tech giants Cisco and Google) in the San Francisco Bay Area. The concept rose out of the challenge to impact a billion people over the next 10 years.

Taking part in this carsharing option is easy. As one would expect from a company born out of the Silicon Valley milieu, Getaround has an iPhone app where users can search, reserve and unlock vehicles. Soon, car owners will be able to use their iPhones to upload their entire vehicle profile too. Or, just visit Getaround to add your car or make a reservation.

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