Thursday, January 30, 2014

Car2Go = Maniac Behind the Wheel

So if you don't know Car2Go or haven't seen their blue and white Smart cars speeding around your city, then you probably don't live in one of the 25 cities around the world where they operate.  Basically, it's a one way car rental, which is much more useful than you ever imagined.  Say you're going to meet friends out at a bar, but you're late, so you can take one of these cars there and park it and then take a bus/cab or walk/crawl home.

Here's how it works:

  1. You give them your credit card and drivers license info and they give you an RFID card.  
  2. You use this RFID card to open one of their 2-person cars, parked anywhere in a designated area (usually the boundaries of your city)
  3. You drive wherever you want in that boundary and then you park the car, and leave the key and use the card to lock the car up again.  As a city kid, the ability to park this thing almost anywhere is awesome and becomes a challenge to find how small of a spot I can find to put it in.  (Note, this is not my parking job, but I am very impressed.)
So what's the big deal? This is great right?  Well, mostly. Here's the catch. 
You get charged per minute.  41 cents per minute to be exact.  So basically, you are trying to get to your destination as quickly as possible.  What's that Grandma?  You want me to yield so you can cross at the crosswalk?  Do I look like I'm made of money?  This cost gets internalized like a mental taxi meter and turns the most thoughtful driver into Dale Jr.  I'm as guilty of it as the next guy, but maybe a different pay structure around pay bands might be better.  Like $5 for 20 minutes, $10 for 40 and $15 for an hour?  

It's not just driving.  There's a gas card in the car, and they will give you a credit of 20 minutes if you fill it up.  But only when the tank is at 1/4 tank or less.  This is dumb.  By that point, you're going to be using 10-12 minutes to fill the tank anyway, what with the weird payment card and inputting mileage, etc.  Why not just give everyone 15 minutes if they fill the tank, for anything under 3/4.  You would have more thoughtful customers and the next drivers would appreciate it.  

Finally, unlike the other great sharing system in DC, Capital Bikeshare, the maintenance issue is not great.  Yesterday, driving a Car2Go, I went to use the wipers and they didn't work.  Nor did the sprayer nozzles.  So I called using the in car SOS button and the connection was turruble, so she called back and I reported it and was thanked.  When I ended the rental, I noticed that the car was ready to be used again.  It seems like they could use a Maintenance Status so people don't keep getting in cars that have obvious problems.  

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