If you thought the concept of car-sharing was only a recent notion, think again. Looking like little Pope-mobiles, these classic electric autos from Amsterdam where not the car for those who suffer from scopophobia (the fear of being seen), but they did pioneer the idea of a technology based car sharing system. All the components of a modern system are there: a very clever docking and recharging system, card and computer control of vehicle access with the member entering their PIN number on a rotary phone. Rates were reasonable: about 3.5¢ US per minute.
The Witkar project took place in Amsterdam between 1974 and 1986. While it provided daily service for more than four thousand registered users over those years, the project never got beyond the limited demonstration phase due to a lack of support by the government.
What else killed this very cool concept? The little cars had a very low top speed, a range of less than 4 miles (even with new batteries) and most people at the time owned their own car. Today, as the general population of Amsterdam gets around by bicycle, the idea might just get rolling. A new company, Witkar, is working on their own system.
For those that speak Dutch: the day the Witkar was launched in 1974.