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The Japanese are renting cars but not driving them

Lately it has been in the news that a growing number of people in Tokyo are using car-sharing services for reasons other than to drive places. It started when companies began noticing that “several percent of their rented vehicles” were not being driven at all. What they ended up discovering, largely through customer surveys, is that car-sharing services have become an affordable option for people looking to nap, work, eat, store things, charge their phone, practice rapping, and probably a bunch of other things.

This immediately struck me as being quintessentially Japanese, partially because one of my experiences of Tokyo is that Tokyoites are often cool to sleep all throughout the city, including at the bar and on my shoulder on the metro. But I also think this finding tells you something about Tokyo’s urban fabric and, in particular, how much of a precious commodity that space is within the capital. This guy once rented a car because he couldn’t find a place to sit down and eat his boxed lunch.

This may also be a case of mispriced private space. Cities should, of course, have well-designed public spaces that accommodate people wanting to eat their boxed lunches. But for those looking for a little quiet time, a few hundred yen for 30 minutes has proven to be a competitive, and in some cases a more affordable, offering compared to, say, internet cafes. From the sounds of it, none of the car share companies ever anticipated this use case. Pricing is interesting.

Photo by Louie Martinez on Unsplash

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