French laundromats, attention! The peer-to-peer community is coming for you. A new online project called La Machine du Voisin (French for "the neighbor's machine") aims to eliminate trips to that dreaded destination, where hours are wasted waiting around under bad lighting. But the alternative proposed—while creative—is definitely not for everyone.
Much like other sharing platforms that have turned parked cars, stowed power tools, and temporarily vacant bedrooms into valuable commodities that can be rented out for cash, La Machine du Voisin transforms a home's washing machine and dryer. Like an online marketplace for laundry, machine owners put a price per wash on a washer-dryer cycle—the going rate is between 3 and 5 Euros. Those with dirty clothes who lack their own laundry machines can search for one nearby with the best rate.
The project was started by a group of students in Lille, France, a city of 230,000 that doesn't have enough laundromats, according to the project's website. Prompted by an innovation challenge by the local business school SKEMA and frustrated by the lack of places to do laundry, the resulting solution was the La Machine du Voisin.
The service seems to push the comfort zone of advocates for sharing or renting everyday items. It's one thing to borrow a neighbor's lawnmower, rent out a car, or even crash at a stranger's pad when traveling abroad. It may be an entirely different situation to show up at a stranger's place with stained shirts and soiled linens. But there's clearly an appetite: The website already has hundreds of machine owner using the service in cities around France.