October 22, 2008 In a progressive move that shares similarities to bike sharing schemes currently operating in some European cities, Daimler is looking to combat urban road congestion with car2go, a new program to be trialed in Germany which will utilize a microchip system in order for members to access environmentally friendly Smart cars.
Commencing in the German city of Ulm this week, the trial will see a fleet of 50 Smart Fortwo vehicles available for rent anywhere and anytime by booking via a mobile phone or the internet.
The registration process involves their driving license being provided with an electronic chip that enables cars to be unlocked. The cars will be made available within the city, functioning as a vehicle pool that can be accessed whenever it’s needed. Registered users can hire cars spontaneously in passing, or pre-book and used for as long as desired. Without needing to have any human contact, the customer simply gets in and can drive off right away. Once the trip is completed, the driver parks the rental Smart somewhere within the city limits. The cost of renting the car is around 11.40 per hour, calculated at 19 cents per minute to the nearest minute of use.
When a customer finds a free smart and wishes to hire it ‘on-the-spot’, they need to hold up their driving license to a reading device behind the windscreen and get in. They then enter their individual PIN number and drive off. Available vehicles can be located quickly and easily via the internet or a telephone service hotline. Alternatively, vehicles can be booked up to 24 hours in advance. In this case the location and directions to the vehicle reserved are sent to the customer via a text message. The rental period can last for as long as desired and the car remains reserved for the customer during any stops made – when shopping, for example. When customers wish to return the car2go, they leave the vehicle in a parking space within the city limits. In addition, specially marked car2go parking spaces are provided at railway stations and airports.
As added motivation for users to join the service, there is no joining fee and customers are not required to enter into any long-term contractual commitment. Customers pay for the vehicle use by means of a monthly bill. Additionally, a service team will clean and service the vehicles on a regular basis.
The first trial phase of this project with the 50 Smart Fortwos involves only employees of Daimler AG. However, the next pilot phase will begin in the spring of next year, and will see the size of the vehicle fleet in Ulm increased considerably and the group of possible car2go users expanded to include all residents of the city and visitors.