“A free-floating car-sharing service…it is a total hack of the car-sharing model,” is how Peter Dempster describes DriveNow. Dempster, Business Development and Sales Manager for DriveNow, Gmbh, KG, goes on to explain that DriveNow allows one to pick up and drop off cars in different places, keep the car as long as they wish, while paying by the minute ($12 for the first 30 $0.32/minute thereafter)¹. It turns out, the DriveNow service can be very affordable, compared to alternatives, as, for instance, taking DriveNow from the San Francisco Airport to Union Square would typically $12, as compared to approximately $60 via taxi.
This joint venture of BMW and German car rental company Sixt, uses a fleet of connected electric BMWs. What makes this model work is the electronic tether these vehicles have to the cloud. That connection allows drivers to find and unlock the closest car. Similarly, it allows the DriveNow team to reposition cars and ensure they are charged (Ka-ching, the driver doesn’t have to pay for electricity – it is included in the aforementioned pricing).
This service is in a handful of cities around the world, including, London, Berlin, Vienna and, in the United States, San Francisco. As Dempster describes, their initial target are locations where the population is less inclined to car ownership and are more concerned about mobility services.
Still, it isn’t difficult to see how the lessons they learn from these initial deployments will inform plans for their service in suburban markets, particularly as automation (e.g. automatically reposition cars without human intervention) further reduces costs associated with this type of service. Ultimately, they may meet their aspiration to some day, “make mobility service so cheap only the rich will buy cars.”
¹There is a one-time, $39 registration fee.