Click above for high-res shots of Daimler's car2go service
Cars represent freedom, right? Sure, but shouldn't that same freedom be available to those who can't justify purchasing their own car? Daimler thinks so, and has created a new pilot program called car2go that allows subscribers to rent a smart fortwo for just 19-cents a minute or less, depending on how long you need the car. The initial roll-out is taking place in Ulm, Germany and begins October 24. The cars can be reserved at a moment's notice from the internet, a mobile phone or in passing using an electronic chip that's given to the user upon the account's creation. There are no limits as to how far the car car be driven, and it can be parked and relocked wherever the driver's trip ends as long as it's within the city limits.
At the outset, there will be 50 smart fortwo's in use by car2go. For a trial period, only Daimler employees will be able to use the service, but the automaker hopes to expand to all Ulm citizens in the spring of 2009. We imagine the car2go service will expand into other locations based on how successful this pilot program proves to be, but don't hold your breath for smart rentals in the U.S. anytime soon.
Daimler starts mobility concept for the city: car2go – as easy as using a mobile phone
*Rent a smart anywhere and anytime, at a moment's notice
*Find and book via cell phone or internet
*Pilot project with 50 smart fortwos starts October in Ulm
*Note: the recording of the press conference will be available at 6:oo p.m. CET
Stuttgart / Ulm – With car2go, Daimler is launching a completely new mobility concept and is providing a future-oriented answer to increasing traffic volume in urban areas. "car2go is an intelligent and creative solution that provides a simple, flexible and value-for-money approach to mobility with environmentally-friendly vehicles" is how Dr. Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, describes the objective of the project.
On 24 October 2008 the first pilot phase will start in the southern German city of Ulm where car2go will be tested in real-life conditions. "Ulm has been one of our most important research locations for many years, and is therefore the ideal choice for testing this future-oriented mobility concept", says Dr. Thomas Weber, member of the board of management responsible for research and development at Daimler AG. Welcoming the commitment of Daimler AG, Ivo Gönner, the Mayor of the City of Ulm , says "As a center of scientific activity, Ulm offers the right environment for laying the groundwork for new ways forward in mobility", The City of Ulm is supporting the car2go project team, in particular with issues of traffic planning.
Simple and economical city driving
And this is how it works: a fleet of smart fortwo vehicles will be made available within the city, functioning for all citizens as a vehicle pool that can be accessed at any time. Following a one-off registration process, the smarts can be hired spontaneously in passing, or pre-booked and used for as long as desired. The concept aims to ensure that a reliable vehicle is available at any time, just a few minutes walk away. The customer gets in and can drive off right away. Once the trip is completed, the driver simply parks the rental smart somewhere within the city limits. Billing for the Ulm project is just as straightforward and flexible as the entire operation of car2go – to the nearest minute, for just 19 cents per minute.
car2go in detail
On registering for car2go, the customer's driving license is provided with an electronic chip that enables the car to be unlocked. Customers have several possibilities for accessing a car2go. A spontaneous "passing" rental, for example – wherever a customer finds a free smart, they can hire it "on-the-spot". To do so, the customer simply holds their driving license up to a reading device behind the windscreen, gets in, enters their PIN number and drives 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 in good time via a text message.
The rental period can last for as long as desired. The vehicle remains reserved for the customer during any stops made – when shopping, for example. When customers wish to return the car2go, they simply leave the vehicle in a parking space within the city limits. All "non-managed" parking spaces within the city limits can be used, for example the car can be parked at the side of the road or within marked parking spaces. In addition, specially marked car2go parking spaces are provided at railway stations or airports.
Charged to the minute
car2go is also notable for its simple and transparent payment system. Charges are not based on distance, but on time – minute for minute – similar to mobile phone usage. Customers can use a car2go in Ulm for 19 cents per minute – inclusive of all associated costs such as fuel, insurance and taxes. Favorable hourly or daily rates apply to longer rental periods. There is no joining fee as a special motivation to try out car2go. Customers are not required to enter into any long-term contractual commitment, and there is no deposit or minimum usage fee. Customers pay for the actual vehicle use by means of a convenient monthly bill.
High quality and reliable service
A service team cleans the vehicles on a regular basis and handles all technical maintenance work. This guarantees that every customer receives a clean, tidy and undamaged vehicle for every trip. The service team is also responsible for refilling the fuel tank, or customers can do this themselves using a pre-paid fuel card found in the glove compartment of the car2go in return for free minutes credited against their next trip. Customers can use the integrated navigation system via a special car2go monitor and they can establish a telephone connection to the service center should they have any questions about the vehicle.
Start-up with 50 smart fortwos
The first phase of the project with 50 smart fortwos will start in Ulm on 24 October and the vehicles will initially be available to employees of Daimler AG only. Robert Henrich, the responsible project manager in Daimler's Business Innovation division says "Our objective in this initial project phase is to gather practical experience of using car2go. For example we will analyze the technical implementation, the service concept and the usage behavior of the customers." 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.
In supporting car2go, Ulm is promoting efficient individual mobility concepts for inner city traffic and the optimum usage of available parking space, and the city is also setting international standards. "The implementation of the car2go pilot project in Ulm has been made possible primarily thanks to the comprehensive support of the city", Robert Henrich continues. The firm Daimler TSS GmbH based in Ulm played a decisive role in the development of the telematics systems, the internet portal and the fleet management systems.
The origin of the concept: smart - "Not just another car"
When the first smart was produced in 1997, the new two-seater micro-car also carried with it a vision of mobility in the 21st century; tailored to address traffic problems in large urban areas. A host of mobility services, such as special rates for occasional rental of a larger vehicle, cheaper car wash rates, special parking arrangements in large cities and combined usage of car, rail and local public transport all positioned the smart as "not just another car".
The original idea of the smart mobility concept was taken on by Daimler's Business Innovation division, which identifies emerging business sectors and derives corresponding business models. In view of increasing crude oil prices, higher traffic volumes in urban areas and the growing need for individual mobility, Business Innovation devised car2go as a tailor-made response to the issues raised by today's urban mobility.