German carmaker Audi has partnered with Swedish-German design firm Kram/Weisshaar to develop a "micro-sharing" initiative for drivers in Stockholm, Sweden.
Audi approached the design firm in 2013, asking it to develop "an entirely new model of micro-sharing" that would "reinvent the business model of car ownership". The resulting scheme, called Unite, allows up to five people to share one Audi car via a booking app.
Each member of the group has a personal Unite beacon, allowing the in-car system to recognise who is using the car and bill them accordingly. Reservations can be made by the hour, and cancelled at any time. The shared calendar on the app allows all drivers to instantly see when the vehicle is available, as well as its fuel levels.
The initiative is available across all of Audi's product range, in 12- or 24-month contracts. The contract includes car access, use of the Unite in-car system, automated billing, monthly cleaning, comprehensive insurance, regular services and seasonal tyre changes. Prices start from around €1,200 per person, per month.
The scheme is currently available in Stockholm, a city described by Kram/Weisshaar as a "fertile ground for a new way of thinking about mobility" thanks to its "cultural willingness and eagerness of people to share resources".
The rise of the sharing economy is putting pressure on carmakers to rethink their business models. Research indicates that 32 new-vehicle sales are lost for every car added to a ride-share scheme. In response, auto brands including Ford, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are partnering with vehicle-sharing start-ups or launching ride-share schemes of their own.