Friday, April 03, 2009

A fascinating new take on transportation by car

Daimler to Bring Car-Sharing to Texas - Wheels Blog -

Daimler to Bring Car-Sharing to Texas

Car2Go Daimler’s Car2go program, to be started in Austin, Tex., will allow members to share Smart Fortwos.

When it comes to creating a successful car-sharing service, Daimler is hoping that what works in Europe will also work in America.

After introducing its Car2go program in Ulm, Germany, last week, the automaker is looking to begin a similar service in Austin, Tex.

“The car-sharing services that exist now require you to pick up and deliver the car, and you can’t drive per minute,” said Han Tjan, a spokesman for Daimler North America, about what separates Car2go from the other car-sharing services, like Zipcar, already on the market. “With this one, if you have to go 10 blocks in Manhattan and it starts raining, you can look for a car and take it.”

Specifically, the Austin service will offer drivers shared access to 200 Smart Fortwos 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To confirm a car’s availability, customers hold a member card over a card reader on the car’s windshield. If the car is available, the door will unlock. The driver can then access the keys from the glove compartment using a PIN. If the car is not available, the customer will be directed to the nearest available Car2go. The service also lets you prebook your vehicle and locate a car by phone or the Web.

When you’re done using Car2go, you can park at any legal parking spot or at Car2go-only parking spaces throughout the city. Cars are locked by holding up the Car2go member card to the reader. Daimler’s goal is to have a Car2go car available within a three-minute walk.

Though prices in the United States have not be announced, the Ulm Car2go program costs 0.19 euros (about 25 cents) a minute. Drivers are charged 9.90 euros ($13.25) an hour after the first hour of use. Flat day rates of 49 euros ($65.60) are also available. These prices include fuel costs. (A service team helps ensure that cars are properly fueled and maintained.) Membership is free.

Daimler’s Car2go Austin service will first be tested by city employees this fall before eventually becoming available to the public.


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