Remember when Bubble Wrap was sold as wallpaper and Play-Doh was sold as wallpaper cleaner? No one else does either, but these are the original purposes for which these two inventions were created. According to a report in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, carsharing companies in Japan are also discovering that customers will gladly use the products for unforeseen purposes. When Times24, Japan’s largest carsharing service, asked customers about how they use vehicles, respondents provided responses that included a place to nap, office space, and storage. when there was nowhere else nearby to store personal belongings. Beyond that, it seems that another lasting effect of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 is the lack of public charging infrastructure; the survey showed that people were renting vehicles to charge their phones.
Further surveys by other carsharing services have not only revealed an even wider range of applications, but that these ancillary uses are increasing, albeit slowly. A questionnaire from the owner of the NTT Docomo service revealed that more than 12% of users do not drive. An âoverwhelming number of large numbersâ hired cars to have conversations with friends, family and business customers. A smaller number said they watched TV, used cars as locker rooms to put on Halloween costumes, practiced their song or rap and did “facial stretches to reduce the size of their faces.” And some just got into a car to stay cool in the summer or warm in the winter.
A public relations spokesperson for Orix, another service, said: “[We] do not recommend that our customers rent vehicles for any purpose other than travel. In addition to the quagmire of potential problems that could arise if people use cars as living spaces, services make less money when cars don’t rack up miles.
Tokyo is certainly an exception, with its exorbitant rents and its extreme population density. However, this is the reason why carsharing vehicles have become personal habitats, since they offer ubiquitous, affordable semi-public spaces available 24 hours a day. Renting a car for 30 minutes costs less than $ 4. But these stories can certainly be seen as precautions to be taken as to how users in other cities will use the spaces to which they subscribe and which they feel they own.