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Nudging for responsible carsharing: using behavioral economics to change transportation behavior


Principles of behavioral economics have been used to change human behavior effectively in a variety of disciplines. For the field of transportation, however, there have only been a few cases where behavioral economics was applied to change behavior in randomized field experiments. In our current study, we aimed to increase vehicle inspection behavior among carsharing users, as an example to apply behavioral principles to transportation. Specifically, we developed a simple nudge in the form of a reminder card to visually remind users to inspect the vehicle prior to their trip. The effects of the card were tested in a randomized field experiment by observing and interviewing users of a carsharing service. We found that significantly more users inspected the vehicle in the presence of the reminder card, compared to a control group where no card was used. Over 4 weeks, the improvement in inspection behavior was constant. Critically, the inspection increased even in the absence of the reminder card in the last 2 weeks of the experiment in one of the two observation sites, revealing a persistence effect of the reminder card. The current study not only demonstrates the effectiveness of a simple reminder based on the behavioral principle of salience, but also offers the potential to apply behavioral economics to the field of transportation.

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  1. All trips observed on March 2nd were excluded due to a technical error in the video camera in Location A. Due to factors outside our control, observations on Fridays ended at 4 p.m.

  2. The Video recordings are made using a low-resolution camera from a significant distance. The image is only just clear enough to discern inspection behavior while being too blurred to identify individual users.

  3. This assumption is supported by the surveys completed on-line, but the self-selection aspects of the survey and small response rates do not permit us to calculate a statistical significance.

  4. A relatively new feature permits access to vehicles via users’ mobile phones, but is not widely adopted.

  5. Multiple Chi square tests were conducted since the sample size was not large enough to conduct a t test.


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Correspondence to Michiko Namazu.

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Namazu, M., Zhao, J. & Dowlatabadi, H. Nudging for responsible carsharing: using behavioral economics to change transportation behavior. Transportation 45, 105–119 (2018).

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  • Nudge
  • Reminder
  • Behavioral economics
  • Carsharing
  • Field experiment