How my family car was replaced with an app

Øyvind Stølen | 6 May, 2020

Bilkollektivet locating the appropriate vehicleUnless car insurance payments, EU control, engine failure, and semi-regular vehicle investments awaken immense joy and happiness in you, I’d advise you to keep reading about how the Bilkollektivet app replaced my family car. 

Having a car used to be a necessity

I’m not going to lie; having a car has been an absolute necessity for me ever since I moved out of my parent’s house back in 1997. Since then, I have owned 5 cars that have helped me get to work, to transport family, and to rush my wife to the hospital to give birth the beautiful children that I have today.

"I have always been fascinated by the sharing economy and remember I looked for car sharing services 20 years ago. There were simply no good options back then… but there are now."

A family man who simply can’t justify it anymore

Right after Christmas of ‘19, I started working on the joint project between Bilkollektivet and Shortcut. This project, as it is now completed, yielded their iOS and Android Car sharing App available for the greater Oslo area (and Stavanger). I live inside of Ring 3, where owning and using a car is unarguably expensive and inconvenient with today’s laws and regulations.

Upon starting the project, I was intrigued by the idea, as I remembered my frustration from 20 years ago. I therefore began doing some simple math to see whether or not Bilkollektivet would make a reasonable substitute.

Note that I use my car to:

  1. Go visit grandparents and in-laws,
  2. Do some weekend trips every now and then, and
  3. Go to the hardware store and IKEA.
Calculator

Doing the math

In order to answer the question, “Is car sharing worth it?” I looked at how much owning my current car actually costs including value loss, insurance, taxes, fees, service, tires, windscreen wipers and so on. I found that these expenses amounted to roughly 60 000 NOK a year for me.

Comparing this with Bilkollektivet’s yearly subscription of 1 152 NOK (96/month) and costs related to the same trips I would do with a private car - I found I’d be able to make at least 100 weekend trips a year to break even. Click here to see the worksheet I used to do the calculations.

"To me, it’s clear that owning a car is not worth it anymore - which is why I recently sold mine on Finn."

Field test - Bilkollektivet proving its worth

Despite other Norwegian app-developers saying the job was “impossible” to complete in the set time-frame, Shortcut’s developers and designers created a highly functioning beta version of the app that I got to try the 23rd of March.

On this day I decided it was time to complete one of my garden projects. Since I missed some necessary materials, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to put Bilkollektivet to the test.

Screenshots of the order-process

I opened my app, searched for vans available around the opening hours of a nearby Maxbo. I found a car that matched my needs and booked it. A few minutes before the booking started I opened the app again and used the map to guide me to the location of the car.

Granted I already knew where it was, but I pretended that I didn’t and let my phone tell me what to do. I arrived at the car at the estimated time by the app, unlocked the car with the key card, and got in. Since the car didn’t support keyless, I had to locate the keys by reading the detailed instructions in the app’s booking details page - which were very straight-forward and helpful.

I then drove off and bought the supplies I needed, dropped them off at home, and finally returned the car to its designated parking spot. Afterwards, I could see the booking listed under “previous” in the reservation list in the app - just like it should be.

This was a very successful field test of the Android app. Along the way I found a couple of minor bugs, but nothing preventing me from completing my mission, which in turn makes me even more excited to now have it published in AppStore and Google Play.

Picture of materials and author giving a thumbs up

High supply of vehicles

As you can tell from the in-app map above , there is no shortage of cars. So, if you’re a little annoyed by having to own a car… then consider Bilkollektivet.

"I am convinced that car sharing through Bilkollektivet is the future - at least for people living within cities or suburban areas."

Building the app

The project of developing the app has been quite challenging with time pressure and a less than straightforward integration to a fleet management system under the hood. But the fact that our competitors all said it was an impossible task gave us the extra motivation we needed to prove them wrong!

To achieve our goal in the shortest possible time we made a gateway layer deployed in Google Cloud as an abstraction of the backend service and to remove as much business logic from the native clients as possible.

I’m not going to lie; it’s been some tough weeks with long hours but seeing the end result in Apple AppStore and Google Play Store is extra rewarding under such circumstances.

I am certain Car Sharing is the future. By selling my car, I'm an active contributor to a healthier micro environment; and so will all the new members of Bilkollektivet also be.

Are you curious about making this transition yourself? Here is the Excel Worksheet  I made to do my calculations (for guidance purposes)

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Topics

Car Sharing Car Environment Apps Digital Sharing Economy Bilkollektivet