Friday, April 10, 2009

Interesting New Developments in the Carsharing Industry

Note: this entry has been updated since its initial posting. - Dave

This week two significant developments in the carsharing industry were announced — the big one being Hertz' acquisition of Eileo, the Paris-based carsharing telematics supplier.

I have always had great admiration for Eileo as they had developed a unique approach to the immobilizer connection, simplifying installation of the car computer. For the past few years Eileo been adding a significant number of carsharing companies to their roster - over 20 in France, and beyond, including the UK, Australia, Israel and recently Hertz and Mind in the US. I counted over 50 "public" services support by Eileo.

And Eileo has developed some innovative capabilities, such as the ability to support floating parking locations. And it should be noted that Eileo has developed telematics in other areas outside of classic carsharing car computer and reservation and administration system. The Eileo website currently lists: a car park solution and a GPS-based fleet tracking solution. And Eileo has continued to support their "tribes" concept, providing free web hosting to encourage several neighbors to start their own informal carsharing, using Eileo car technology, of course.

Hertz has made a wise move, since other companies have demonstrated that you can easily waste millions of dollars thinking you can do a better job developing your own technology. But the Hertz-Eileo combination means that Mint Carsharing in New York City, which also uses the Eileo technology, is going to have to go shopping.

Carpooling or Carshare? Now you Can Have Both

And, in an interesting twist on the transportation alternatives Zipcar announced a partnership with Zimride , a web-based car-pooling service that uses Facebook to help identify potential ride sharers.

Zipcar says it their reservation system will allow users to automatically post the ride on the Zimride site, allowing other registered users to see it and contact the driver. The new carpooling feature, initially to be offered on the Stanford University campus, is sure to be a hit with the many other universities Zipccar serves. It's likely to be a big leg up in exposure for Zimride.

It should be noted that both the Invers and Eileo web reservation systems have long offered a ridesharing option, but only to other carsharing members using that particular service. This collaboration with Zimride will provide an interesting expansion.

Zipcar has already anticipated one potential problem: their website reminds Zip drivers that if Zimriders want to drive cars they must also be Zipcar members. And it will be interesting to see whether the Zip-Zim contributes the not uncommon confusion between carsharing and carpooling is some people's minds or not.

U Carshare Continues Below the Radar

Finally, U Carshare, the other new kid on the block has been quietly putting a few cars on the street. They've just announced Regis College and Viriginia Tech in Blacksburg coming soon. And currently they have cars at Berkeley, California ( 4 vehicles at 3 locations) the University of Wisconsin in Madison (8 vehicles at 7 locations), in my home town Portland, Oregon (see below), and the other Portland in Maine (4 vehicles at 2 locations). In Berkeley, they offer a Ford E-250 van at $15/hour or $109 per day; compared to PT Cruiser at $9 per hour or $65 per day.

In Portland, Oregon, U Carshare now has 10 vehicles, including 8 at on-street parking spaces, all with their signature PT Cruisers. But, so far, their marketing has been non-existent and I really can't figure out why. Word of mouth and free registration can only go so far in attracting new members. So we wonder what U-Haul corporate has up their sleeve - either a very economical stealth growth plan or they're laying the groundwork for something big. We'll wait and see.