So you’re a city dweller and you need a car for a short time, but you don’t have the time or the desire to pick it up from a rental location and return it to the same place in a fixed amount of time. This is where one-way carsharing becomes a compelling business model and customer convenience.
Launched back in 2008 by Daimler North America, Car2go’s “free floating” one-way carsharing service has found a new home for a pilot program: Chicago. The company will be introducing a fleet of 400 affordable, eco-friendly vehicles (Mercedes models as well as BMWs thanks to a carsharing partnershipannounced in March) to the Windy City beginning July 25th.
While carsharing services aren’t unusual anymore, Car2go offers a unique twist. Users don’t need to pick cars up and return them to the same place. Instead, they can make one-way trips and leave the drop-off dates, times and locations open-ended. Members have instantaneous access to the entire network of shared vehicles and can end their trip in any approved space within Car2go’s “home area,” including residential permit areas and Car2go designated parking spaces. Members can use their smartphones to find an unoccupied parked Car2Go vehicle, access it immediately, and use it to meet their local travel needs.
The pilot program, according to both the company and the city, will offer Chicago residents new options beyond owning or renting cars in a traditional way. The city’s “home area” has been subject to some disputes in the past, and will not include some of Chicago’s most problematic parking neighborhoods such as the South Side.
“Chicago is a global leader in transportation innovation and this new pilot program will help us stay at the forefront while supporting our commitment to providing safe and reliable ways to get around Chicago,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement in response to the pilot program.
One-way car-sharing isn’t only convenient for users who don’t want to own vehicles: there’s evidence it helps the environment, as well. Research conducted recently found that car2go’s free-floating model helps mitigate traffic congestion, reduces air pollution and integrates with other transit and sustainable transportation options, thereby helping cities move more people, more efficiently.
Car2go is currently the largest carsharing operator in the world, with about three million members in 23 other cities (30 percent of the service’s increase in users happened last year). To interact with the service, users download the app. Registration for membership opened last week at www.car2go.com/US/en/chicago.