You gotta boat, I need a boat, let’s save lots of money: P2P vehicle sharing expands from cars to boats. What’s next?

Okay, did anyone get that Pet Shop Boys reference in the headline? I kinda like it.

My Clean Break column today begins with a look at a new Web-based beta service launched by a Texas company called Nautical Monkey, and how the trend in peer-to-peer vehicle sharing is poised to expand into many new areas beyond the road. Nautical Monkey was designed to match up people who own boats with people who want to use boats but don’t want the hassle of owning one. The service let’s boat owners make some money on the side for the majority of the year when the boat sits idle, while also providing a way for folks like me — who could never justify buying a decent-sized boat and wouldn’t want the headache of owning one — to partake in the nautical experience without breaking the bank or my marriage. As I say in the column, it’s Craigslist meets Facebook meets Zipcar, with a twist on the traditional time-share model used today by vacationers. Nautical Monkey charges $10 a month for the service, and with that you get all the tools you need to connect with someone and manage the relationship.

It’s very interesting how technology is truly beginning to enable this whole peer-to-peer culture of asset sharing. We have services today like Zipcar (or, for my local homeys in Toronto, AutoShare), which is to car use what Napster was to digital music — a centrally managed system shared by many (though unlike Napster, Zipcar actually owns the asset it’s sharing). Now, we’re starting to see true peer-to-peer vehicle sharing services, where anybody with a car in their driveway can “rent” out their vehicles to neighbours and local strangers. Services like this — Getaround, RelayRides, Spride and Buzzcar among them — are more like all those music-sharing sites that use the BitTorrent platform. It’s not a direct analogy, but close enough. P2P vehicle sharing gets around the requirement for some centrally managed and owned fleet, which can become costly and can’t be done economically when expanding into less dense (i.e. suburban) areas. Now, there are major hurdles to overcome, such as murky insurance laws and logistical challenges, but I’m sure these will be dealt with over time and that first-generation car share providers will help legitimize the approach. For example, Montreal’s Communauto is the first in Canada that appears to be taking this on with the coming launch of a P2P vehicle sharing pilot project.

Now, Nautical Monkey comes along and brings the P2P sharing model to boats. The company has already indicated it’s interested in expanding the model to recreational vehicles, planes, and a host of other “assets” that I’m sure many people would feel comfortable sharing. As more people do, it lowers consumption and the energy required to feed higher consumption, and it creates positive behaviour. Car-share members, for example, tend to walk more, bicycle more, and take more public transit. Let’s face it folks, there’s no reason we all have to own this “stuff.”

Where will the P2P-sharing journey take us? Kayaks, lawn mowers, camping equipment, pressure washers, etc…  the opportunities are endless, and it may pose a significant threat in the not-so-distant future to traditional physical rent-all outlets.