A file photo shows shared cars in China. [Photo: People.com.cn]
China's Ministry of Transport has been soliciting public opinion over drafted guidelines to regulate the country's car-rental services. Encouraging the development of car-sharing services is among the highlights of the document.
The drafted document says the Chinese government supports the development of car-sharing, which allows people to rent cars for short periods of time and help ease urban congestion and parking pressure. It also touches upon practical aspects of the growth and service requirements of the industry.
Cheng Guohua is a researcher with China's Ministry of Transport. He said the drafting of the document will fill a void in China's current regulations of car-rentals and car-sharing.
"A very important aspect to the industry's development is legal supervision and regulation. At the central level, China does not currently have regulations related to car-rental and car-sharing," said Cheng.
The researcher said regional regulations exist in the sector in various parts of China but that a lack of standardized industry requirements has impeded the sector's growth.
Unlike traditional car-rentals over the counter, car-sharing refers to services where users can gain access to vehicles, often by the hour, online. The cars are usually parked at designated parking lots, where drivers can get to and return them.
More than 40 companies in China currently offer car-sharing services, while most cars are new energy vehicles. Those numbers are small, considering the country's tremendous auto market.
Zhu Dajian is Professor and Director of the Institute of Sustainable Development and Governance at Shanghai Tongji University. He said the emergence of car-sharing in China is the latest step in country's sustainable development.
"Car-sharing is a new concept. Previously, car ownership helped to develop China's economy and its cities. But now people have found that it has led to congestions and other challenges to the environment and economy. Conversely, car sharing serves as a model to provide car access without the requirement of ownership," said Zhu.
The issuing of the draft document comes as Chinese authorities recently released another set of draft regulations for the country's booming bike sharing services. That document was released after those services, in addition to convenience, also brought along a slew of new problems, such as unregulated parking.
Zhu Dajian with Tongji University said compared to its counterpart for bike-sharing, the latest document for car-sharing can better serve to guide the sector and prevent problems before they occur.
"The draft document over car-sharing is perhaps more focused on forecasting and guiding the industry development. Many potential or foreseeable problems have not occurred in the actual industry. So it is difficult to accurately pinpoint them. But it can serve to lead the industry, rather than trying to regulate the market once it becomes disorderly," said Zhu.
Cheng Guohua with the Ministry of Transport said those areas addressed by the car-sharing draft regulations include protection of users' rights.
"The car-sharing service providers gain access to user information such as personal identification, bank card information and travel routes. So there is the issue of information security. And there is also financial security, when it comes to the deposit money put down by users," said Zhu.
Additionally, Cheng says the draft regulations also aim to address challenges faced by service providers, through the development of measures such as preferential parking policies.