Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Daimler says you can have it all with Car2Go

With the demise of Honda DIRACC in Singapore, another car manufacturer gets into the game: Daimler. And not just plain vanilla carsharing, this is (almost) everything you ever dreamed of - one way trips, on demand (no reservation), open-ended (no return time) and no fixed location for return (within a zone, at least).

Car2Go is Call-A-Bike adapted for cars. And not just any car - but Daimler's cute but specialized city car - the Smart.

But talk about an operational nightmare? For many companies, just keeping the cars clean and keeping track of them is a full time job. The "bord-computer", made by Invers, has got a lot of work to do. A nice video (in German) showing the user interface in the car is here.

To get the bugs worked out, initially there will be 50 Smarts in Ulm and only Daimler employees there will be able to use the service. Then the service will be open to the general public. Charges are reported going to be 19¢ per minute (€uro "cents" I'm afraid) - which is about € 9.90 ($12.75 per hour) and a whole day will cost € 49.90 ($64) - certainly in line with Zipcar rates.

Other news reports indicate that Daimler is considering service in the US, although no cities have been mentioned.

But I'll let the press release from Bodo Schwieger from Team Red in Berlin tell the story:

The German car-manufacturer Daimler is starting an innovative business concept called car2go. It is based on the Smart car and is the first fullsize open-end and one-way car-rental system that even operates in a floating fleet without fixed locations.

The technology is especially designed for easy and simple use and improved customer care compared to given rental and sharing schemes, since one-way systems require more detailed information systems.

The system will be operating in Ulm for around six months as a prove-of-concept with Daimler-employees only and then become available for all citizens of Ulm. Further future might be a Daimler operated service for Mega-Cities around the world.

Check the website and Google "car2go Ulm" for a large number of reports in German and English.

"team red" supported the Daimler project team throughout all phases of realization.".

Bodo Schwieger of Team Red is no new comer to carsharing, he did his engineering dissertation on carsharing and ran a demonstration project of exactly such a service 8 years ago in Berlin. It's all chronicled in his report, International Developments Towards Improved Car-sharing Services, which sometimes appears on Amazon. It's also got a fascinating analysis of Flexcar, as well.

But what about that name - Car2Go? Guess they won't be expanding to Israel anytime soon!