There appears to be growing talk of peer-to-peer car sharing, at least judging by the recommendations I get for my page. Peer-to-peer car sharing involves renting someone else’s car. The current “brand leader” is RelayRides. This is a different model of car sharing from that of ZipCar. With ZipCar, the company owns the fleet and you hire the car from the company. With RelayRides, all they do is install a special lock and take care of billing and insurance. For that, they take a 35% cut of the rental fee.

Peer-to-peer car sharing is interesting because of the question of trust. With ZipCar, the interaction is between a company and an individual, but with RelayRides it is between two individuals – the company is much further backstage.

This suggests an interesting dynamic between the extent to which a service is centralized and the degree of trust required between parties to a transaction in order to make that transaction work. This is not a new dynamic: credit card companies remove the issue of trust between seller and purchaser; instead, both place their trust in the credit card company. Even currency, which is guaranteed by the state, is a way of making questions of trust between individuals irrelevant: people just have to trust the state. But with peer-to-peer interactions, trust reemerges as a central issue.