In a joint partnership with the City of Austin, Daimler is launching its groundbreaking car2go pilot project in North America today.
The innovative mobility concept makes city driving as easy as using a mobile phone. It offers Austin an easy, flexible, reasonably priced and progressive solution to the growing challenges of urban mobility. Austin becomes the official headquarters of car2go North America LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Daimler. The first pilot phase starts with 200 smart fortwo vehicles and a defined group of users. At some point in 2010, the number of cars will be increased and car2go will be made accessible to all Austin residents and students.
The car2go system is straightforward. 200 smart fortwo vehicles are made available within the city for all registered car2go members. This fleet of vehicles can be accessed 24/7. After a one-time registration process, the customers can use the service on the spot by accessing any available vehicle on the street, or can book in advance through the online reservation process. One significant difference from traditional car-sharing programs is that car2go offers cars on demand and the customers may use the vehicle for as long as they like, without committing to a specific return time. Furthermore, car2go allows users to make one way trips. Charges are not based on distance, but on time – with rates starting by the minute.
“car2go is an innovative answer to current and future mobility needs in urban areas”, says Dr. Thomas Weber, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. “We are pleased with the success we achieved in Ulm, Germany – the first car2go city – and we are ready for the next logical step on our way to an international rollout.”
The City of Austin is the first North American city to partner with car2go. This launch follows the successful implementation of the first car2go pilot in October 2008 in the southern German city of Ulm.
The 200 smarts of the first pilot are rented 500 to 1,000 times per day and they are used by 15,000 customers which equals more than 15 percent of the citizens who possess a driver’s license in Ulm. 90 percent of the participants take advantage of the unique offer to use car2go spontaneously without booking in advance and for one-way trips.
“The City of Austin is committed to identifying and implementing solutions to address the challenges associated with urban growth, mobility and environmental sustainability,” said Mayor Lee Leffingwell. “This pilot-program partnership between car2go and the City of Austin represents a significant step toward helping us alleviate congestion, reduce emissions and increase the use of public transportation.”
For the pilot, the pick up and drop off area is limited to the greater downtown Austin area which has an expansion of about 17 square miles where more than 60,000 employees work. The use of a car2go vehicle includes all city-controlled parking fees: No need to feed the meters! car2go is paying a usage fee to the City of Austin in the form of free driving minutes for employees driving on City business.
“Facilitating innovative transportation solutions is integral to the City of Austin’s goal of becoming the best-managed city in America,” said City Manager Marc Ott. “By promoting large-scale car sharing, we can help address mobility challenges in and around our urban core, ultimately reducing the burden on city center traffic and parking.”
More than 13,000 city employees have the opportunity to use the smart vehicles not only for business but also for private use. Billing is handled with the same degree of simplicity and flexibility as every aspect of car2go – the rates are all-inclusive: fuel, maintenance, insurance, miles and parking. Competitive hourly or daily rates apply to longer rental periods. The trademark of car2go is its user friendly system, developed to meet and exceed the needs of customers. A car2go service team on the ground will handle daily maintenance of the vehicles. The service team will also ensure the vehicles are fueled and clean. If customers want to refuel the vehicles by themselves, they can use a pre-paid credit card found in the glove compartment of the car2go. The time for refueling the car will be credited to the customer with 10 minutes of free driving.
”The goal of the Austin pilot project is to gather experience we can use to ensure the public launch of car2go in North America in 2010 is successful,“ says Nicholas Cole, CEO of car2go North America LLC. “In the second phase we will increase the number of cars in Austin and open the service to the public. We are also talking to a large number of cities in North America and Europe about additional rollouts of car2go.”
The smart fortwo vehicles for the Austin pilot phase are provided by the smart USA Distributor LLC. The vehicle size and its maneuverability are perfect for car sharing programs in urban areas.