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Although carshare has long been a mobility mainstay, its integration into Mobility-as-a-Service has been mixed at best. Most carshare services have never provided a public API showing real-time vehicle availability. When they were offered, public APIs were far from guaranteed. Daimler-owned car2go originally provided a public API to show cars available for use, before revoking API access for mobility apps in January 2018. Although Daimler later restored access to a limited number of partner apps, it wasn’t long before a shift in the industry led many North American carshare operators, including car2go, to close up operations entirely.
But that story is far from universal. One Canadian operator, Communauto, has been operating since 1995 and is a leader at integrating carshare services alongside public transit and other modes.
The carshare industry is increasingly working to adopt existing data standards to make it easier for users to find available carshare vehicles. GBFS, the data standard originally developed for bike and scooter share, has been modified to apply to free-floating carshare. Free2Move, which operates carshare in the United States and Europe, provides a private feed for its service that adapts the GBFS specification to carshare. Free2Move is one of a number of carshare operators to adopt the GBFS standard, simplifying the process of incorporating carshare into trip planning and MaaS apps.
Guidance for public agencies
- City agencies permitting carshare operations can ask operators to provide publicly-accessible, well-documented vehicle availability APIs. To make life simpler, consider adopting the GBFS standard for carshare, as a growing number of operators are beginning to use it for this purpose.
- The success of Communauto demonstrates that integration of the full unlock and payment experience in third-party apps is both possible and desirable. If your agency is permitting carshare services, encourage operators to make booking and/or payment APIs accessible through third-party apps.
- Ask operators to provide documented examples of previous third-party trip planning and payment integrations of their services.
RFP and contract language
This page will be regularly updated with new RFP and contract examples.
56% of cities that require GBFS for bikeshare and shared scooter systems, according to the North American Bikeshare Association. Until recently, there was no data standard for describing a free floating car share service, and no public API requirements in North American carshare permitting regulations.
Over the last couple of years, however, operators have begun to adapt the GBFS feed for use in free floating car share services, and there are now some cities that require a GBFS feed from carshare operators as a condition of operations. In Oakland, CA, the free floating carshare program provides “Real-time data on rentable vehicle locations is available via Application Programming Interface (API) in the General Bikeshare Feed Specification (GBFS)”.
Other cities should consider applying the same or similar permit language concerning GBFS or open APIs that they use for bikeshare and scooter systems for free floating carshare.