The leading businesses that are advancing the concept of the “sharing economy” are in many respects no longer insurgents and newcomers. The size and scale of Uber, Airbnb and several other firms now rival, or even surpass, those of some of the world’s largest businesses in transportation, hospitality and other sectors. As the economic power of these technology-driven firms grows, there continue to be regulatory and policy skirmishes on every possible front, across cities and towns spanning the United States, Europe and beyond.
While many municipalities and regions have accepted change as inevitable and have been eager to facilitate new efficiencies for consumers — Uber in particular has made a lot of regulatory headway since 2015 — there have been cases, such as in Austin, Tex. in May 2016, where policies have been in effect reversed to block these new forms of commerce. These fights are looking more and more like political campaigns. In any case, a 2015 report from the National League of Cities reviews regulatory policies and patterns across a variety of dimensions, from safety to innovation; a 2016 report from the European Parliament weighs the costs and benefits of non-participation in the sharing economy.
The Economics and Statistics Administration of the U.S. Commerce Department issued a report in June 2016 that attempts to define and map out the contours of this emerging business sector, labeling its participants “digital matching firms.” That report defines this sector through the four following characteristics:
- They use information technology (IT systems), typically available via web-based platforms, such as mobile “apps” on Internet- enabled devices, to facilitate peer-to-peer transactions.
- They rely on user-based rating systems for quality control, ensuring a level of trust between consumers and service providers who have not previously met.
- They offer the workers who provide services via digital matching platforms flexibility in deciding their typical working hours.
- To the extent that tools and assets are necessary to provide a service, digital matching firms rely on the workers using their own.
The implications of the sharing economy — part of what has also been termed the “gig economy” — have of course been hotly debated in the news media, and the research world has been steadily weighing in with deeper analysis. One central area of argument relates to whether the sharing economy is simply bringing more wage-earning opportunities to more people, or whether its net effect is the displacement of traditionally secure jobs and the creation of a land of part-time, low-paid work. It’s a debate that continues to develop and play out, forcing reporters to weigh competing claims that vary in tone from boosterism to warnings of the new economy’s “dark side.”
While the conclusions about the overall effects of this sector are anything but clear, even as more data pour in, it is worth digging into the available literature and knowing the centers of research debate and lines of argument.
A January 2015 paper co-authored by Princeton’s Alan Krueger — the former Chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers — based on Uber’s internal data finds clear benefits for “driver-partners” and notes the new financial opportunities created for tens of thousands of workers. Those conclusions have been critiqued by, for example, the liberal-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research. In any case, the Krueger paper also argues that “the availability of modern technology, like the Uber app, provides many advantages and lower prices for consumers compared with the traditional taxi cab dispatch system, and this has boosted demand for ride services, which, in turn, has increased total demand for workers with the requisite skills to work as for-hire drivers, potentially raising earnings for all workers with such skills.”
There is the distinct danger, on both sides, of overstating the case and the size of effects. A 2014 paper by Annette Bernhardt of University of California, Berkeley, signals a cautionary note about any claims of radical recent change being wrought across the U.S. economy:
It is also true that the rise of independent workers, and associated job insecurity, long predates the recent rise of the sharing economy, although their percentage of all U.S. workers is expected to grow from about one-third currently to 40% by 2020, according to some estimates.
A 2015 report from the Center for American Progress notes the heated debate in Britain over “zero hours contracts” and charges that highly insecure and contingent employment leads to the exploitation of workers. The report — co-authored by Harvard’s Lawrence Summers, a top official in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, and Ed Balls, a British Labour Party MP — notes that “technology has allowed a sharing economy to develop in the United States; many of these jobs offer flexibility to workers, many of whom are working a second job and using it to build income or are parents looking for flexible work schedules. At the same time, when these jobs are the only source of income for workers and they provide no benefits, that leaves workers or the state to pay these costs.”
Meanwhile, scholars such as Juliet Schor of Boston College have been examining how workers might regain bargaining power despite an increasingly app-based, decentralized system of distributed labor. “While the for-profit companies may be ‘acting badly,’” she writes in an October 2014 essay, “these new technologies of peer-to-peer economic activity are potentially powerful tools for building a social movement centered on genuine practices of sharing and cooperation in the production and consumption of goods and services. But achieving that potential will require democratizing the ownership and governance of the platforms.”
Fights over rules and regulations
In October 2014 the New York State Attorney General released a report into Airbnb’s operations that concluded that 72% of the site’s rentals violated state zoning regulations or other laws. The company’s business model is built around allowing people to rent out rooms or entire apartments on a short-term basis, and the report is the latest in a series of ongoing battles Airbnb is engaged in with regulators across the world.
Berlin has banned regular short-term rentals in the most popular parts of the city without prior permission from the authorities. Paris passed a law in February 2014 to allow city inspectors to check rental homes whose owners are suspected of renting them out to visitors illegally. Airbnb has countered with its own reports on the benefits of short-term stays on local housing markets, arguing that the company’s service benefits local economies.
Also known as collaborative consumption or peer-to-peer (P2P), the sharing economy challenges traditional notions of private ownership and is instead based on the shared production or consumption of goods and services. Its origins were in not-for-profit initiatives such as Wikipedia (2001) and Couchsurfing and Freecycle (both 2003). Advances in information technology enabled the creation of large-scale bike-share systems (the first was in Lyon, France, in 2005), and these have subsequently expanded to the United States and around the world.
Social media and mobile technology have enabled the latest expansion of the sharing economy and turned it into a big business: Airbnb allows individuals to share their homes, while Lyft and Uber transform private cars into common resources. All these are for-profit services, but they take only a fraction of the fees levied, passing the rest on to the owners: In 2013 it was estimated that revenues passing through the sharing economy into people’s wallets exceeded $3.5 billion, up 25% from the previous year. Airbnb has exceeded 10 million guest-stays since its launch and now has more than half a million properties listed. Meanwhile Uber has said that it is doubling its revenue every six months.
As a 2014 article in Harvard Business Review noted, the interests of sharing-economy firms and city governments are often aligned, but failing to engage early on with potential regulators can raise the suspicion that companies are trying to exploit loopholes rather than develop a legitimate business model. For example, courts in Frankfurt recently upheld a national ban on Uber, and the service has been banned in several Canadian cities as well. At the heart of many of these debates is whether Uber is, as it claims, operating as a pure technology company, providing a match-making service to willing participants, or whether it is operating in effect as an unlicensed taxi service, which was the conclusion of Calgary’s city council. Moreover, a Massachusetts class-action lawsuit asserts that Uber exploits its drivers, misclassifying them as independent contractors to avoid paying them as employees with the same benefits.
Examples from elsewhere in the world shows such fractious relationships with regulators need not be the norm. In February 2014, Amsterdam became the first city to pass so-called “Airbnb friendly” legislation. A law allowing short-term rentals by permanent San Francisco residents was finalized in October 2014, but requires them to collect city hotel taxes and imposes other restrictions. In London, 1970s regulations limiting short-term stays were scrapped, making it easier for Airbnb and others to operate in the city. The British government has even launched an initiative to make the U.K. the “global centre for [the] sharing economy.” Similarly, while some traditional operators have fought sharing start-ups, others have chosen to get in on the game themselves: In 2013 Avis paid half a billion dollars for the car-sharing service Zipcar, and Hertz has started a similar service.
Below are a range of additional academic articles that seek to define, understand and analyze the sharing economy, those who participate and its economic impact.
“Owning, Using and Renting: Some Simple Economics of the ‘Sharing Economy’”
Horton, John J.; Zeckhauser, Richard J. NBER Working Paper No. 22029, February 2016.
Abstract: “New Internet-based markets enable consumer/owners to rent out their durable goods when not using them. Such markets are modeled to determine ownership, rental rates, quantities, and surplus generated. Both the short run, before consumers can revise their ownership decisions, and the long run, in which they can, are examined to assess how these markets change ownership and consumption. The analysis examines bringing-to-market costs, such as labor costs and transaction costs, and considers the operating platform’s pricing problem. A survey of consumers broadly supports the modeling assumptions employed. For example, ownership is determined by individuals’ forward-looking assessments of planned usage.”
“Does the Sharing Economy Do Any Good?”
Dillahunt, Tawanna, et al. Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing Companion, Pages 197-200, 2016.
Abstract: “Despite the benefits offered by sharing economy, researchers have identified several challenges preventing disadvantaged groups (e.g. low socioeconomic status, un(der)employed and/or users from emerging regions) from receiving the same level of benefits as those from advantaged populations. This panel brings researchers from the sharing economy and mobile crowdsourcing space whose research has identified unique challenges for underserved populations. We consider the opportunities offered by these platforms to disadvantaged communities and examine to what extent these platforms instead may recreate disadvantage, as well as the workarounds communities employ to make these platforms work for them. We examine the opportunities for the CSCW [Computer Supported Cooperative Work] community to address these challenges going forward.”
“The Sharing Economy: Reports from Stage One”
Schor, Juliet B. Working paper, Boston College, November 2015.
Abstract: “The sharing economy has generated heated controversy as proponents claim it is bringing efficiency, opportunity and sociability and critics argue it is degrading labor, exacerbating inequality and commodifying daily life. Here we discuss findings from in-depth interviews with providers on three for-profit platforms (Airbnb, Relay Rides and TaskRabbit) and find a mixed picture. Providers are generally pleased with their earning possibilities although there is some evidence that conditions are eroding for providers of general labor services. With respect to sociability and commodification we also find a mixed picture.”
“Who Benefits from the ‘Sharing’ Economy of Airbnb?”
Quattrone, Giovanni, et al. WWW ’16 Proceedings of the 25th International Conference on World Wide Web, Pages 1385-1394, 2016.
Abstract: “Sharing economy platforms have become extremely popular in the last few years, and they have changed the way in which we commute, travel, and borrow among many other activities. Despite their popularity among consumers, such companies are poorly regulated. For example, Airbnb, one of the most successful examples of sharing economy platform, is often criticized by regulators and policy makers. While, in theory, municipalities should regulate the emergence of Airbnb through evidence-based policy making, in practice, they engage in a false dichotomy: some municipalities allow the business without imposing any regulation, while others ban it altogether. That is because there is no evidence upon which to draft policies. Here we propose to gather evidence from the Web. After crawling Airbnb data for the entire city of London, we find out where and when Airbnb listings are offered and, by matching such listing information with census and hotel data, we determine the socio-economic conditions of the areas that actually benefit from the hospitality platform. The reality is more nuanced than one would expect, and it has changed over the years. Airbnb demand and offering have changed over time, and traditional regulations have not been able to respond to those changes. That is why, finally, we rely on our data analysis to envision regulations that are responsive to real-time demands, contributing to the emerging idea of ‘algorithmic regulation.’”
“Peeking Beneath the Hood of Uber”
Chen, Le, et al. IMC ’15 Proceedings of the 2015 ACM Conference on Internet Measurement Conference, Pages 495-508, 2015.
Abstract: “Recently, Uber has emerged as a leader in the “sharing economy”. Uber is a “ride sharing” service that matches willing drivers with customers looking for rides. However, unlike other open marketplaces (e.g., AirBnB), Uber is a black-box: they do not provide data about supply or demand, and prices are set dynamically by an opaque “surge pricing” algorithm. The lack of transparency has led to concerns about whether Uber artificially manipulate prices, and whether dynamic prices are fair to customers and drivers. In order to understand the impact of surge pricing on passengers and drivers, we present the first in-depth investigation of Uber. We gathered four weeks of data from Uber by emulating 43 copies of the Uber smartphone app and distributing them throughout downtown San Francisco (SF) and midtown Manhattan. Using our dataset, we are able to characterize the dynamics of Uber in SF and Manhattan, as well as identify key implementation details of Uber’s surge price algorithm. Our observations about Uber’s surge price algorithm raise important questions about the fairness and transparency of this system.”
What is the sharing economy and who participates?
“Avoiding the South Side and the Suburbs: The Geography of Mobile Crowdsourcing Markets”
Jacob Thebault-Spieker; Loren Terveen; Brent Hecht. Urban Environments CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Abstract: “Mobile crowdsourcing markets (e.g., Gigwalk and TaskRabbit) offer crowdworkers tasks situated in the physical world (e.g., checking street signs, running household errands). The geographic nature of these tasks distinguishes these markets from online crowdsourcing markets and raises new, fundamental questions. We carried out a controlled study in the Chicago metropolitan area aimed at addressing two key questions: (1) What geographic factors influence whether a crowdworker will be willing to do a task? (2) What geographic factors influence how much compensation a crowdworker will demand in order to do a task? Quantitative modeling shows that travel distance to the location of the task and the socioeconomic status (SES) of the task area are important factors. Qualitative analysis enriches our modeling, with workers mentioning safety and difficulties getting to a location as key considerations. Our results suggest that lowSES areas are currently less able to take advantage of the benefits of mobile crowdsourcing markets. We discuss the implications of our study for these markets, as well as for ‘sharing economy’ phenomena like UberX, which have many properties in common with mobile crowdsourcing markets.”
“The Sharing Economy: Why People Participate in Collaborative Consumption”
Hamari, Juho; Sjöklint, Mimmi; Ukkonen, Antti. Social Science Research Network, May 2013.
Abstract: “In recent years, [information and communications technologies] have afforded the rise of the so called ‘collaborative consumption’ (CC) — a form of consumption where people share consumption of goods and services online. CC has been expected to alleviate societal problems such as hyper-consumption, pollution, and poverty by lowering transaction costs related to coordination of economic activities within communities…. The motivation to participate in CC is often regarded as fuelled by the aspirations to do good, but at the same time CC offers participants possible economic benefits. In this paper we investigate the role of these intrinsic and extrinsic motivations in attitudes and participation. The study employs survey data (N=168) and structural equation modeling (SEM-PLS). The results show that, whereas intrinsic motivations strongly predict attitudes, they do not translate as well into usage intentions. Conversely, economic benefits predict use intentions but do not significantly influence attitude. Furthermore, the attitude-behavior gap seems to loom in the consumption behavior related to collaborative consumption; people perceive the activity positively and say good things about it, but they might not still participate in it themselves.”
“The Promise of the Sharing Economy among Disadvantaged Communities“
Tawanna R. Dillahunt; Amelia R. Malone. ACM Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) 2015, April 18 – 23 2015, Seoul, Republic of Korea. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2702123.2702189
Abstract: “The digital-sharing economy presents opportunities for individuals to find temporary employment, generate extra income, increase reciprocity, enhance social interaction, and access resources not otherwise attainable. Although the sharing economy is profitable, little is known about its use among the unemployed or those struggling financially. This paper describes the results of a participatory-design based workshop to investigate the perception and feasibility of finding temporary employment and sharing spare resources using sharing-economy applications. Specifically, this study included 20 individuals seeking employment in a U.S. city suffering economic decline. We identify success factors of the digital-sharing economy to these populations, identify shortcomings and propose mitigation strategies based on prior research related to trust, social capital and theories of collective efficacy. Finally, we contribute new principles that may foster collaborative consumption within this population and identify new concepts for practical employment applications among these populations.”
“You Are What You Can Access: Sharing and Collaborative Consumption Online”
Belk, Russell; Journal of Business Research, August 2014, Vol. 67, Issue 8, doi: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2013.10.001.
Abstract: “Sharing is a phenomenon as old as humankind, while collaborative consumption and the ‘sharing economy’ are phenomena born of the Internet age. This paper compares sharing and collaborative consumption and finds that both are growing in popularity today. Examples are given and an assessment is made of the reasons for the current growth in these practices and their implications for businesses still using traditional models of sales and ownership. The old wisdom that we are what we own may need modifying to consider forms of possession and uses that do not involve ownership.”
“When Is Ours Better Than Mine? A Framework for Understanding and Altering Participation in Commercial Sharing Systems”
Lamberton, Cait Poynor; Rose, Randall L. Journal of Marketing, July 2012, Vol. 76, No. 4, 109-125.
Abstract: “Sharing systems are increasingly challenging sole ownership as the dominant means of obtaining product benefits, making up a market estimated at more than US$100 billion annually in 2010. Consumer options include cell phone minute-sharing plans, frequent-flyer-mile pools, bicycle-sharing programs, and automobile-sharing systems, among many others. However, marketing research has yet to provide a framework for understanding and managing these emergent systems. The authors conceptualize commercial sharing systems within a typology of shared goods. Using three studies, they demonstrate that beyond cost-related benefits of sharing, the perceived risk of scarcity related to sharing is a central determinant of its attractiveness. The results suggest that managers can use perceptions of personal and sharing partners’ usage patterns to affect risk perceptions and subsequent propensity to participate in a commercial sharing system.”
“Alternative Marketplaces in the 21st Century: Building Community Through Sharing Events”
Albinsson, P. A.; Yasanthi Perera, B. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, July/August 2012, Vol. 11, Issue 4.
Abstract: “We examine alternative consumption including collaborative consumption, sharing, and unconsumption (i.e., postconsumption activities such as upcycling, reuse, recycling, etc.) at non-monetary-based private and public sharing events including Really Really Free Markets (RRFMs). These alternative marketplaces (RRFMs) were initially organized by the Anarchist Movement as a form of resistance to the capitalist economic model. However, many consumer groups now utilize this model to stage public sharing events as a means of raising awareness about various issues including sustainability and overconsumption. Participants bring, share, and take goods without any expectation of monetary or other exchange. There is limited research on collaborative consumption and sharing in non-monetary marketplaces. We address this gap by exploring alternative marketplaces, organized by consumers for consumers, utilizing qualitative research methods. Our findings indicate that a sense of community is both a driver of participation and an outcome of these events. Organizers and participants utilize these venues to share knowledge and possessions for various ideological and practical reasons. Our findings also indicate that these events challenge the entrenched notions of exchange and reciprocity. Our research contributes to the literature by highlighting the importance of community, collaboration, and changing consumer mindsets to the success of such sharing efforts.”
“Does Sharing Mean Caring? Regulating Innovation in the Sharing Economy”
Ranchordas, Sofia, Tilburg Law School-Department of Public Law, Social Science Research Network, September 2014.
Abstract: “Sharing economy practices have become increasingly popular in the past years. From swapping systems, network transportation to private kitchens, sharing with strangers appears to be the new urban trend. Although Uber, Airbnb, and other online platforms have democratized the access to a number of services and facilities, multiple concerns have been raised as to the public safety, health and limited liability of these sharing economy practices. In addition, these innovative activities have been contested by professionals offering similar services that claim that sharing economy is opening the door to unfair competition. Regulators are at crossroads: on the one hand, innovation in sharing economy should not be stifled by excessive and outdated regulation; on the other, there is a real need to protect the users of these services from fraud, liability and unskilled service providers. This dilemma is far more complex than it seems since regulators are confronted here with an array of challenging questions: firstly, can these sharing economy practices be qualified as “innovations” worth protecting and encouraging? Secondly, should the regulation of these practices serve the same goals as the existing rules for the equivalent commercial services (e.g. taxi regulations)? Thirdly, how can regulation keep up with the evolving nature of these innovative practices? All these questions, come down to one simple problem: too little is known about the most socially effective ways of consistently regulating and promoting innovation.”
“The Social Logics of Sharing”
John, Nicholas A. Communication Review, July 2013, Vol 16, Issue 3.
Abstract: “This article explores the concept of sharing in three distinct spheres: Web 2.0, whose constitutive activity is sharing (links, photos, status updates, and so on); ‘sharing economies’ of production and consumption; and intimate interpersonal relationships, in which the therapeutic ethos includes a cultural requirement that we share our emotions. It is argued that a range of distributive and communicative practices — not all of which are entirely new–are converging under the metaphor of sharing. Thus, practices in one sphere are conceptualized in terms of practices from other spheres. What all three spheres of sharing have in common are values such as equality, mutuality, honesty, openness, empathy, and an ethic of care. Moreover, they all challenge prevalent perceptions of the proper boundary between the public and the private.”
“Sharing Nicely: On Shareable Goods and the Emergence of Sharing as a Modality of Economic Production”
Benkler, Yochai, Yale Law Journal, November 2004, Vol. 114, No. 2.
Abstract: “This essay offers a framework to explain large-scale effective practices of sharing private, excludable goods. It starts with case studies of carpooling and distributed computing as motivating problems. It then suggests a definition for shareable goods as goods that are “lumpy” and “mid-grained” in size, and explains why goods with these characteristics will have systematic overcapacity relative to the requirements of their owners. The Essay next uses comparative transaction costs analysis, focused on information characteristics in particular, combined with an analysis of diversity of motivations, to suggest when social sharing will be better than secondary markets at reallocating this overcapacity to non-owners who require the functionality. The essay concludes with broader observations about the attractiveness of sharing as a modality of economic production as compared to markets and to hierarchies such as firms and government. These observations include a particular emphasis on sharing practices among individuals who are strangers or weakly related; sharing’s relationship to technological change; and some implications for contemporary policy choices regarding wireless regulation, intellectual property, and communications network design.”
“Social Networking Technologies and the Moral Economy of Alternative Tourism: The Case of Couchsurfing.org”
Molz, Jennie Germann. Annals of Tourism Research, October 2013, Vol. 43, 210-230.
Abstract: “The purpose of this study is to examine the role social networking technologies play in the moral economy of alternative tourism. The study takes as its empirical focus the online hospitality exchange network Couchsurfing. Using the concept of ‘moral affordances’, the analysis outlines the way Couchsurfing’s technical systems, software design, and search algorithms enable participants to engage in a moral economy based on the non-commodified provision of accommodation to strangers and personal relations of trust and intimacy. Findings suggest that these affordances are not isolated effects of the technologies themselves, but rather reflect a broader moral landscape in which alternative tourism is performed.”
“The Rise of the Sharing Economy: Estimating the Impact of Airbnb on the Hotel Industry”
Zervas, Georgios; Proserpio, Davide and Byers, John; Boston U. School of Management Research Paper No. 2013-16, February 2014.
Abstract: “Airbnb is an online community marketplace facilitating short-term rentals ranging from shared accommodations to entire homes that has now contributed more than ten million worldwide bookings to the so-called sharing economy. Our work addresses a central question facing the hospitality industry: to what extent are Airbnb stays serving as substitutes for hotel stays, and what is the impact on the bottom line of affected hotels? Our focus is the state of Texas, where we identify Airbnb’s impact by exploiting significant spatiotemporal variation in the patterns of adoption across city-level markets. Using a dataset we collected spanning all Airbnb listings in Texas and a decade-long panel of quarterly tax revenue for all Texas hotels, we develop a nuanced estimate of Airbnb’s material impact on hotel revenues. Our baseline estimate is that a 1% increase in Airbnb listings in Texas results in a 0.05% decrease in quarterly hotel revenues, an estimate compounded by Airbnb’s rapid growth.… We find that the impacts are distributed unevenly across the industry, with lower-end hotels and hotels not catering to business travelers being the most affected. Finally, by simulating various regulatory interventions informed by current events, such as limiting Airbnb hosts to a single listing, we find only a moderate mitigating impact on hotel revenues.”
“Ride On! Mobility Business Models for the Sharing Economy”
Cohen, Boyd; Kietzmann, Jan; Organization and Environment, September 2014, Vol. 7, No. 3.
Extract: “The P2P ride-sharing platforms like Uber and Lyft have opted for a seemingly infinitely scalable, pure, for-profit business model. As these ride-share platforms have no need to hire drivers or acquire vehicles, Uber and Lyft and others like them, rely on the power of social networking to scale their service. As evidenced by their rapid growth and high valuations, it is clear these ride-share companies have achieved some early success in maximizing value to their customers… However, the private ride-share operators, to date have opted to avoid interaction with local governments. As mentioned earlier, this has resulted in significant challenges to the longevity of their business models due to legal action and other threats posed by local governments and taxi operators. We suggest that this can be explained, in part, by the failure to consider more active engagement with local governments from the beginning. While the go-it-alone approach and avoiding local government and regulation has been a historical modus operandi in other sectors (Konefal, 2013), we suggest that shared mobility service providers would be better served by finding ways to collaborate with local governments if they want to achieve long-term viability. Not only would this entail adhering to regulations in areas such as vehicle and driver safety requirements but also seeking to optimize the citizen and environmental goals to achieve active city support. Any direct financial support, or incentives that promote the use of these P2P networks, such as embedding the ride-sharing data into transit applications, could result in a reduction in costs for riders.”
“Quantifying the Benefits of Vehicle Pooling with Shareability Networks”
Santini, Paolo; Resta, Giovanni; Szell, Michael; et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, July 2014, Vol. 111 No 37.
Abstract: “Taxi services are a vital part of urban transportation, and a considerable contributor to traffic congestion and air pollution causing substantial adverse effects on human health. Sharing taxi trips is a possible way of reducing the negative impact of taxi services on cities, but this comes at the expense of passenger discomfort quantifiable in terms of a longer travel time. Due to computational challenges, taxi sharing has traditionally been approached on small scales, such as within airport perimeters, or with dynamical ad hoc heuristics. However, a mathematical framework for the systematic understanding of the tradeoff between collective benefits of sharing and individual passenger discomfort is lacking. Here we introduce the notion of shareability network, which allows us to model the collective benefits of sharing as a function of passenger inconvenience, and to efficiently compute optimal sharing strategies on massive datasets. We apply this framework to a dataset of millions of taxi trips taken in New York City, showing that with increasing but still relatively low passenger discomfort, cumulative trip length can be cut by 40% or more. This benefit comes with reductions in service cost, emissions, and with split fares, hinting toward a wide passenger acceptance of such a shared service. Simulation of a realistic online system demonstrates the feasibility of a shareable taxi service in New York City. Shareability as a function of trip density saturates fast, suggesting effectiveness of the taxi sharing system also in cities with much sparser taxi fleets or when willingness to share is low.”
“Access-Based Consumption: The Case for Car Sharing”
Bardhi , Fleura ; Eckhardt, Giana M., Journal of Consumer Research, December 2012, Vol. 39, No. 4, 881-898.
Abstract: “Access-based consumption, defined as transactions that can be market mediated but where no transfer of ownership takes place, is becoming increasingly popular, yet it is not well theorized. This study examines the nature of access as it contrasts to ownership and sharing, specifically the consumer-object, consumer-consumer, and consumer-marketer relationships. Six dimensions are identified to distinguish among the range of access-based consumptionscapes: temporality, anonymity, market mediation, consumer involvement, the type of accessed object, and political consumerism. Access-based consumption is examined in the context of car sharing via an interpretive study of Zipcar consumers. Four outcomes of these dimensions in the context of car sharing are identified: lack of identification, varying significance of use and sign value, negative reciprocity resulting in a big-brother model of governance, and a deterrence of brand community. The implications of our findings for understanding the nature of exchange, consumption, and brand community are discussed.”
“Understanding the Diffusion of Public Bikesharing Systems: Evidence from Europe and North America”
Parkes, Stephen D; Marsden, Greg; Shaheen, Susan A.; and Cohen, Adam P., Journal of Transport Geography, July 2013, Vol. 31.
Abstract: “Since the mid-2000s, public bikesharing (also known as “bike hire”) has developed and spread into a new form of mobility in cities across the globe. This paper presents an analysis of the recent increase in the number of public bikesharing systems. Bikesharing is the shared use of a bicycle fleet, which is accessible to the public and serves as a form of public transportation. The initial system designs were pioneered in Europe and, after a series of technological innovations, appear to have matured into a system experiencing widespread adoption. There are also signs that the policy of public bikesharing systems is transferable and is being adopted in other contexts outside Europe. In public policy, the technologies that are transferred can be policies, technologies, ideals or systems. This paper seeks to describe the nature of these systems, how they have spread in time and space, how they have matured in different contexts, and why they have been adopted.”
“Bike Share: A Synthesis of the Literature”
Fishman, Elliot; Washington, Simon; Haworth, Narelle. Transport Reviews, 2013, 33:2, 148-165. doi: 10.1080/01441647.2013.775612.
Abstract: “This paper begins by providing an overview of bike share programs, followed by a critical examination of the growing body of literature on these programs…. Several consistent themes have emerged within the growing body of research on bike share programs. Firstly, the importance bike share members place on convenience and value for money appears paramount in their motivation to sign up and use these programs. Secondly, and somewhat counter intuitively, scheme members are more likely to own and use private bicycles than nonmembers. Thirdly, users demonstrate a greater reluctance to wear helmets than private bicycle riders and helmets have acted as a deterrent in jurisdictions in which helmets are mandatory. Finally, and perhaps most importantly from a sustainable transport perspective, the majority of scheme users are substituting from sustainable modes of transport rather than the car.”
Online ratings and reputation
“Engineering Trust: Reciprocity in the Production of Reputation Information”
Bolton, Gary; Greiner, Ben; and Okenfels, Axel, Management Science, December 2012, Vol. 59, Issue 2.
Absract: “Reciprocity in feedback giving distorts the production and content of reputation information in a market, hampering trust and trade efficiency. Guided by feedback patterns observed on eBay and other platforms, we run laboratory experiments to investigate how reciprocity can be managed by changes in the way feedback information flows through the system, leading to more accurate reputation information, more trust, and more efficient trade. We discuss the implications for theory building and for managing the redesign of market trust systems.”
“A Survey of Trust and Reputation Systems for Online Service Provision”
Josang, Audun; Ismail, Roslan; and Boyd, Colin, Decision Support Systems, March 2007 Vol. 43, Issue 2.
Abstract: “Trust and reputation systems represent a significant trend in decision support for Internet mediated service provision. The basic idea is to let parties rate each other, for example after the completion of a transaction, and use the aggregated ratings about a given party to derive a trust or reputation score, which can assist other parties in deciding whether or not to transact with that party in the future. A natural side effect is that it also provides an incentive for good behaviour, and therefore tends to have a positive effect on market quality. Reputation systems can be called collaborative sanctioning systems to reflect their collaborative nature, and are related to collaborative filtering systems. Reputation systems are already being used in successful commercial online applications. There is also a rapidly growing literature around trust and reputation systems, but unfortunately this activity is not very coherent. The purpose of this article is to give an overview of existing and proposed systems that can be used to derive measures of trust and reputation for Internet transactions, to analyse the current trends and developments in this area, and to propose a research agenda for trust and reputation systems.”
This article was originally published on Uber, Airbnb and consequences of the sharing economy: Research roundup