Daimler AG is launching a new car-sharing concept—car2go—using a fleet of 50 smart fortwos in the city of Ulm, Germany. The fleet of fortwos will be made available within the city as a vehicle pool that can be accessed at any time, from any location. Following a one-off registration process, the smarts can be hired spontaneously in passing, or pre-booked and used for as long as desired.

Renting a shared car2go on the spot is done via a chip on the driving license. Click to enlarge.

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 car2go pilot is 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.

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. In a spontaneous “passing” rental, wherever a customer finds a free smart, they can hire it “on-the-spot” by holding his or her driving license up to a reading device behind the windscreen, entering the car, and punching in a PIN. Available vehicles can be located 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 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 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.

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 monthly bill.

A service team cleans the vehicles on a regular basis and handles all technical maintenance work. This ensures 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.

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.

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.

—Robert Henrich, project manager in Daimler’s Business Innovation division

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.