|Two smart2go units in Austin. Click to enlarge.|
Daimler will bring its car2go mobility concept (earlier post) to the US in a pilot phase to start this fall in Austin, Texas with an initial fleet of about 200 smart fortwo mhd vehicles with start/stop functionality. The US introduction coincides with the expansion of the pilot in Ulm, Germany, where the company opens the service to the public on 26 March after the internal test which started last October.
The car2go concept is based on a fleet of smart fortwo vehicles which are available for rent to registered members at any time, 24/7. Whenever a car is needed, it can be rented spontaneously in passing out on the street, or it can be pre-booked via mobile phone or internet. The car then can be used as long as one likes, and can be returned to any unoccupied public parking space within the area of operation.
The plan charges by the minute, hour or day. Sole condition for use is one-time free registration as a customer and a valid driver’s license, to which a small seal is affixed. Once a person registers, he or she can open any car2go by means of a card reader placed behind the windshield.
In the first pilot phase that began last October with 50 smart fortwo cars, some 500 employees of the Daimler Research Center in Ulm, plus 200 family members, participated as test drivers. The aim was to test the technical systems and gather initial experience with acceptance, user behavior, and effort for service in practical operation.
The success of the first pilot phase surprised even us and shows how much importance already is attached to forward-looking mobility concepts today. In just two weeks more than 500 customers had registered with car2go – a number we had not anticipated. Sometimes I could see from my office window how employees sprinted to the parking lot after work to get a car2go before they were all gone.—Robert Henrich, responsible project manager at Daimler AG
In peak periods the entire fleet of 50 smart fortwo was being used to full capacity and could have been greatly expanded based on the user demand. Since the start, 8,000 rentals have been registered, and per day as many as eight customers have used the same vehicle.
As intermediate step, in February the clientele was extended to include the employees of the Mercedes-Benz sales and service outlet Ulm/Neu-Ulm and the local Daimler subsidiary EvoBus. In line with this the number of car2go vehicles was raised to 100. This increased the overall number of car2go users to more than 1,000. The successful start has encouraged all parties to take the next step: the public testing phase has begun in Ulm, in which car2go is available to all 120,000 residents and people visiting the city. For this purpose the car2go fleet is being doubled to 200 smart fortwo cdi vehicles.
Daimler had planned on international deployment of the program from the beginning. Whereas in Ulm the purpose is to test the general acceptance of the concept and stabilize the technical systems, the second pilot project is designed to generate know-how for the international use of car2go. The demands include applicability to other cities, language regions and mobility trends as well as adaptation of the business processes to the legal requirements in other countries.
As in the first phase of the German pilot project, car2go will begin in Austin with a defined group of users, for example city employees. It is then planned to make car2go accessible to the public in Austin in a second step.