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Even a Mobility Revolution Can’t Crack American Car Culture

Ride-hailing and car-sharing were supposed to get us out of our own cars. They haven’t. 

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The end of February marks the close of a small chapter in the story of American transportation: the shutdown of the North American operations of Share Now, the most prominent car-sharing business in the U.S. The service existed in various forms for about a decade, leaving its cars—many of them go-kart-esque vehicles covered in loud advertising for its Car2Go brand—parked in the streets of 14 U.S. cities. Customers used smartphone applications to find and unlock them, renting them for the afternoon or just to drive across town. Share Now purported to offer an alternative to personal car ownership—a striking proposition given that its owners, the European automakers Daimler AG and BMW AG, sell luxury automobiles.

Share Now isn’t the only one struggling. A handful of deep-pocketed investors made big bets that the end was near for the deep-seated affection Americans have for their cars. Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc., which have pushed the taxi alternative known as ride-hailing, have terminated employees since going public early last year, and shares of both companies trade below their initial prices. Scooter companies Bird Rides Inc. and Lime Micromobility have also cut jobs and shut down operations in multiple U.S. cities. Getaround Inc., a car-sharing startup valued by investors at well over $1 billion, said in January that it would cut a quarter of its staff.