Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Technology News

Time Sharing Cars 298

timmy_walker writes "This article from the associated press talks about new car time share services from ZipCar and Seattle-based Flexcar, where "Customers make reservations via computer or telephone, and the company uses remote-access systems to control who can use the car when.""
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Time Sharing Cars

Comments Filter:
  • Time Share (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:32PM (#11224618)
    I used to have a Ford Fiesta which I used to time share, between me and the goddamn mechanics.
  • by sjrstory ( 839289 ) * on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:32PM (#11224622) Homepage
    This is much like Autoshare [] in Toronto, Canada. There are many others [] as well. A good resource can be found here. []

  • Are taxi drivers unionized?
  • by jgclark123 ( 812195 ) <> on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:33PM (#11224630) Journal
    Why stop at cars? Instead of mail-order brides, rent-a-wife!
  • by l-ascorbic ( 200822 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:35PM (#11224644)
    There's a very similar sounding system running in the UK, in London, Edinburgh, Bristol and Brighton. It's run by Smart Moves [], and involves cars that are parked in designated spots, booked by phone or web, with access via smartcard. It's been quite polular here in Bristol, by all accounts, and many new housing developments are including car club spaces in their plans.
  • nice but (Score:2, Insightful)

    Public transportation is more convenient and cheaper.
    • Re:nice but (Score:5, Informative)

      by smonner ( 468465 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:45PM (#11224705)
      More convenient than a car? Maybe in some cities, but certainly not all. There are a lot of areas in my city that would require several transfers and a lot of time to get to by public transport. So assuming the car was in a resonable location relative to my starting point/home, this could be ideal.
    • by RomanD ( 844958 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:46PM (#11224718)
      I agree about public transportation but this is why Zipcar must offer something that is not possible with taxi or public transport. Pickup trucks per hour for example. Living in a college town like Boston, people are always moving things but being away from home and parents no noone has cars/trunks.
    • Re:nice but (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Public transportation is more convenient and cheaper.

      I'd say "convenient" can be defined several different ways. For instance, is it more convenient for me to spend half of my travel time waiting for buses and trains on a Sunday, or would I rather spend the 9 bucks an hour and rent one of these things and actually spend my time getting around and doing what I need to do? It's also certainly more convenient if I need to make a trip to Home Depot to grab a bunch of crap...
    • Re:nice but (Score:3, Informative)

      sure. when it is. i normally take the bus in seattle or walk. but on the odd occasion that i need to drive out to the burbs to buy something or visit friends i can without having to deal with a cab. they only charge me when i use it, which is rarely. its nice to have the option.

      my only complaint is that the stupid web site only deals with ie, so i'm stuck using the fairly painful phone menu.
    • Re:nice but (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blincoln ( 592401 )
      Public transportation is more convenient and cheaper.

      Yes, it's certainly more convenient to take groceries, home electronics, etc. etc. home on the bus.

      It's certainly more convenient to try and get home from a club on the bus only to realize that they stopped running at 11:30PM because your city is too poor to run them any later.

      It's certainly more convenient to wait half an hour (or more) in the rain, because the last one came by five minutes early.

      Public transportation is shit. I've had to deal with
      • Yes, it's certainly more convenient to take groceries, home electronics, etc. etc. home on the bus.

        I take it you haven't discovered the unalloyed joy of home delivery [] yet?

        If you can bag a job where you can work from home occasionally, there's really no other way to go.
        • That's fine, so long as you live in Australia, which most people reading this can not claim.

          I don't have a home delivery option for food, unless it can be mail ordered. Fine for can goods I guess (though I don't know who does it), useless for anything fresh.

    • Re:nice but (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Atrax ( 249401 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @11:00PM (#11224807) Homepage Journal
      Public transportation is more convenient and cheaper.

      This is very true, as long as where you're heading is serviced by public transport, without and excessive number of changes.

      I work about 15kms outside the middle of Sydney (North Ryde). Luckily, I live within a short walk of the main bus terminal in the Centre (QVB). If I lived in the Eastern Suburbs somewhere, I'd have to catch a train or bus in, then my usual bus out again, which is frankly a pain, and quite time consuming. None of my immediate colleagues use PT for this very reason. It's painful for them, so they drive (and incidentally bitch about the traffic). I don't think it occurs to the two who live close to each other to carpool, but that's another story.

      Now cycling, that's different. It's a good ride on a decent day, takes roughly an hour for me, which is only 15 mins more than the walk/bus combo. It's more environmentally sound than Public Transport, you've as much freedom of destination as with a car, and your health is miraculously improved (though your chances of being maimed by traffic are probably higher). The initial investment is only a couple of hundred bucks, if you're not a gadget freak like me and end up spending way too much on titanium bits.

      Of course if more people used PT, then PT could service more areas, this is obvious, but as things stand public transport is only a partial solution (and I'm an advocate of it)
    • Re:nice but (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Feanturi ( 99866 )
      Cheaper, yes, but how is it more convenient? I guess it depends on how good your public transport is. My job involves a shift that begins at 6am. The very earliest I can get there by bus is 6:20, and that is of course just to somewhere down the street from the building, it'll be a bit later than that before I can actually report in and be ready for work. And that's even optimistic because they cannot guarantee that the second bus I have to transfer to will not have come and gone early, or that my first bus
    • Public transportation is more convenient and cheaper.

      It depends.

      Public transit's definitely better for getting to work and back in bad weather. (In good weather, I take my bike, which is even better.) But it's worse for running errands, visiting friends and family, or trips out of town. Which are pretty much the only uses I have for a car. Compared to the thousands of dollars I've put into buying, insuring, and maintaining an automobile, one of these services would be a huge bargain! Hell, even tak

    • From a pure cost perspective is public transit in the US really cheaper?

      You're thinking "cheaper" because your fare might be only a dollar or two. You're ignoring the substantial infrastructure costs associated with building out a public transit system.

      For the older systems the infracstructure maintenance costs are relatively large, but because the costs are spread out in the form of taxes the cost is less visible.

      It'd be interesting to see how much a new transit system (like in Dallas or Austin) would b
      • I'd encourage you to actually do that research.

        For one thing, I think you're mentally comparing a Cadillac-level public transit system with Yugo-level private cars. Yes, the cost to build a new public transit system using busses is substantial, but not nearly as costly as subways, light rail, trolleys, etc. We recently passed a millage to expand and revamp our bus system, and it's a pretty trivial increase to our local taxes. My car insurance alone went up more that year. One bus burns less fuel and puts

      • OK, from a pure cost point of view, cars have been cited as more efficient than trains [] but only if a number of conditions are fulfilled. Not buses, but many of the same factors will apply

        For a start the car needs to be full to get to that point, it also needs to be a fairly new and efficient model - and old clunker or a hummer are just not going to cut the mustard there. I'm also not sure that the article cited above has considered the multi-purpose nature of many trains (carrying mail, cargo and passenger
    • Re:nice but (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
      Cheaper yes, more convenient no. When I lived in SF I could drive for 5-10 minutes to work, spend 0-5 minutes finding parking within a couple blocks, and be done. Taking public transport to work required two buses and the muni train and took 30 to 60 minutes. As a network admin, I found this to be highly impractical, but it would be plenty bad for other people too. Mind you, SF has one of the best public transportation systems in the US, so basically I am calling bullshit. Let's not even get into stuff like
      • OK, now I'm calling bullshit.

        Comparing the cost of driving your car to the ER with an ambulance is patently ridiculous on the face of it. For something you'd otherwise drive there for, damn right you'd take a cab, or more likely borrow a car instead. And how often a year do you go to the ER, anyway? SF's public transit system may be "one of the best", but its geography is also one of the most challenging to get around (I recall some kind of bay or something in the middle of it...?) so that kinda evens

    • Re:nice but (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jhw3 ( 839537 )
      I lived in Cambridge MA until this past spring and was a Zipcar member for about two years. The system is streamlined and works incredibly smoothly. Any problems I had with car bookings were my own fault (i.e. booking a car for 11 p.m. instead of 11 a.m.). It works so well with the Web that it is impossible to imagine something like Zipcar being workable before the Internet age.

      For a long time, Zipcar tried to foster a sense of community in which abusing the cars (leaving garbage, empty fuel tanks, smoking
  • policy (Score:2, Funny)

    by nwerneck ( 780169 )
    I would really like to know what time sharing policy they are implementing... Fastest job first? FIFO? Multiple lines? random??...
  • "Inside my Zipcar, the key is hanging from a cord near the ignition -- which would appear to be an unwise place to leave a key in the city. But the ignition unlocks only after I presented my card, so nobody else can break in and start the car."

    This is also offered in New York, where if you slow down, your car is stripped?
  • Running late? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:43PM (#11224698) Homepage
    Can anybody here who's familiar with similar systems comment on how reliable it is? I mean, I've lost count of all the things that could mess with the scheduling required for a system like this...traffic...accidents...slow driving...getting lost...

    • Re:Running late? (Score:4, Informative)

      by g3000 ( 799075 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @11:12PM (#11224889)

      I haven't used it, but I have a good friend who uses Flexcar here in Seattle.

      According to her, it's not a "dream solution." There has been a time or two when the car in the spot closest to her apartment hasn't been available on short notice, etc. etc. But Flexcar did ultimately make it possible for her to make the leap to get rid of her personal car altogether. She lives and works downtown and uses the bus system, but was holding on to her car for that one-Saturday-a-month when she would make the big grocery store run, do the miscellaneous errands that took her to other parts of the city, and/or pick up something too big to carry alone on a bus.

      Without Flexcar, she would have had to meet the expense of keeping the car around for those odd occasions, as Seattle is not quite ready for most young professional types to live by public transportation alone, a la New York City.

      • Without Flexcar, she would have had to meet the expense of keeping the car around for those odd occasions...

        And once she's paid all those expenses, she pretty much has to use the car all the time, even if mass transit is available, since the slight extra expense of using the car day-to-day is usually less than transit fares.

        There must be millions of people who own and use cars for just that reason, and it has a pretty nasty environmental and economic impact. Which is the main motivation behind the organ []

    • The first rule of Flexcar is: You can depend on the flexcar.

      The second rule of Flexcar is: You can depend on the flexcar.

      The third rule of Flexcar is: DO NOT BE LATE WITH THE FLEXCAR.

      Their policy is that if you have a reservation, and the car isn't there, you call their toll-free 24-hour support number. They either get you a car nearby (if that works), or they send you a taxi. You take that taxi on your task, for up to some amount ($200 I think it is). The bottom line: if you have a reservation, you
  • Meh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:44PM (#11224701) Journal
    People have cars for privacy - its your own little home on wheels you can take anywhere, this is just a gloryfied rental car? Just get the bus...
    • > People have cars for privacy

      Shame they're not actually all that private.

      Think of all the people who act as if they are though (nose picking, singing along to bad tunes, shaving while driving etc... and worse)
    • People have cars for privacy

      You must be the guy I see picking his nose every morning in traffic...

  • Keeping them clean? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bfizzle ( 836992 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:45PM (#11224707)
    How do they keep people from smoking in these things or keeping people from trashing them? Spilled coffee Someone's kid getting car sick Fast food wrappers Someone's homless person or dog shitting all over the thing? Seems like their would be a huge reduction of accountibility for these cars.
    • by Schmucky The Cat ( 687075 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @11:11PM (#11224881) Homepage le&plp=5&thisRegion=Seattle+Metro&rc=1

      Smoking/Pets Fee: Fee for smoking in a vehicle or carrying pets without a pet carrier is $200.

      Cleaning Fee: Emergency vehicle cleaning (interior not ready for next member) is $200 plus costs.


      • by bfizzle ( 836992 )
        Hmmm.. very interesting incentives:

        Other Fees/Credits

        General Membership Fee:
        All plans require an annual fee and selection of a rate plan. Members may change rate plans before the last day of the month at no charge.

        Reservation Cancellation Fee:
        Reservations may begin and/or end on the hour or half-hour. No charge for cancellation if reservation is cancelled within one hour of making reservation or more than 8 hours before scheduled use. Otherwise member will be charged rates for all hours reserved less
      • by bfizzle ( 836992 )
        Seattle Metro Rate Plans

        Standard $9.00 per Hour Each hour includes 30 free miles.
        Advantage 5 $43.75 per Month Up to 5 hours and 150 miles.
        Advantage 10 $85.00 per Month Up to 10 hours and 300 miles.
        Advantage 25 $200.00 per Month Up to 25 hours and 750 miles.
        Advantage 50 $375.00 per Month Up to 50 hours and 1500 miles.
        Advantage 100 $700.00 per Month Up to 100 hours and 3000 miles.
        Advantage 200 $1350.00 per Month Up to 200 hours
    • You are accountable because someone is always going to be using the car after you. If I find that the car is filthy or been puked in or whatever, I call the vendor and they pinch the guy who rented the car before me. Zipcar members are typically renting the car for short 2 hour errands. The pricing discourages long trips, and so discourages candy wrappers, puking, etc. that long trips entail. Zipcar (which I was a member of until I bought my own car) had someone who maintained the car. Zipcar worked pr
    • Flexcar will charge you $200 if you smoke in their car or trash the car as you described.
  • Won't scale well (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FuturePastNow ( 836765 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:47PM (#11224727)
    This may work on a small scale, but I know how people treat rental cars, and many people trash the cars that they own. I'm supposed to drive one of these things after Comic Book Guy does God knows what in the back seat? I don't think so.

    Right now these companies have a limited membership that they can screen. But this will never survive the transition to big-time.
    • Re:Won't scale well (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Why not have a rating system, like Ebay.

      When you receive a car, you score the condition it is in online. If you want a good score, you better make sure the car is clean when you are finished, even if the pig before you made a mess.

      Each member is then scored based on how he handed the car off to the next person. Groups can then be formed around ratings. Each group has a minimum score - if a user meets the requirement, he can join the group and borrow the car.

      This way, slobs who don't pick up after themsel
    • It scales perfectly, it's called a BUS.

      Most places in the civilized world have them, with the exception of the US, which has no real public transportation in all but the largest and oldest cities.
    • First, it's scaling pretty well already. Second, if you find that Comic Book Guy did God Knows What in the back seat, you call the 24-hour number. They fine Comic Book Guy $200, pay you $20 for your inconvenience. Then they get you a taxi to another car, or you use the taxi itself for your trip. Which Comic Book Guy also pays for.

      Go read the site at flexcar [], it's pretty well thought-out.

  • Is this news? (Score:3, Informative)

    by lar3ry ( 10905 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:48PM (#11224733)
    I first found out about ZipCar from an advert in a T station (subway for those of you not in New England) in Boston. This had to be a few years ago--possibly 2001.

    Since I live in NH, it wasn't available to me at the time, but I thought it was intriguing, especially for people that don't drive that often.
  • Is there anyone out there who'd like to share their Ferrari or Porsche with me? I'm not picky, either will suffice ...
  • by Darklamp ( 648653 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:52PM (#11224758)
    In Ottawa they have a very successful car sharing program. Have a look at their website: [] They are mostly using Ford Focuses and I think they even have a mini-van for share. I believe it is a great idea in any urban area. Insurance rates are pretty costly in the area.
  • Dent-and-scratch (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ZeeExSixAre ( 790130 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:52PM (#11224761)
    Who's going to be responsible for all the dent-and-scratch stuff on the cars? Sensors wouldn't pick it up because it's not violent enough. Unless people are examining the cars before they get to the next user, there's sure to be a lot of finger-pointing.

    In metro areas, bicycles are vastly faster anyways. If you can stand to get sweaty, that is...

    • Yes, and bicycles make it so convenient to shop for, say, a family of four, or a medium-sized appliance! I think you have found the answer! They are also excellent for the elderly (SOME of whom are capable of driving properly, like my grandfather) and the infirm. Yes sir, you really are on to something there!
    • Re:Dent-and-scratch (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @11:45PM (#11225051) Homepage
      Why, exactly, do dings and scratches matter?

      Seriously, I've never really understood this fetish people have for mint-condition vehicles. My last car had a noticeable dent in one of its side panels for years. I saved a small fortune by not having it restored to factory condition. And yet its "car" functionality was completely unaffected. And since the guy I ended up selling it to just wanted a means of transportation (not a penis substitute), this "defect" didn't even affect its resale value. And when you're talking about a vehicle the drivers won't even own... why should anyone care if there's a ding in the door?

      • Why, exactly, do dings and scratches matter?

        Agreed, that's one of the joys of my car. 1974 VW beetle, paid $650 and I've only put $7 into maintenance (previous owner thought he didn't need an air preheat hose). I love the looks people give me at the grocery store when I just slam my cart into the side of the car to keep the cart from rolling away.

        On topic, before I found the beetle I was actually thinking about trying the flexcar. There was one parked in the lot my old apartment building shared with
      • Re:Dent-and-scratch (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tassach ( 137772 )

        Why, exactly, do dings and scratches matter?

        They matter because the cosmetic appearance of a vehicle is a pretty reliable indicatator of how well the previous owner maintained it. Someone too lazy to wash their car or fix minor dings is also probably too lazy to change the fluids reguarly and do other routine maintenance.

        They matter because little dings, left unrepaired, become big rust spots.

        They matter for the same reason that small holes and stains in your clothes matter.

        • All of this is true.

          All of this doesn't matter for a shared car service; cosmetic condition is (relatively) unimportant, so long as the car service is maintaining the car properly.

          Dings are totally unimportant - scratches more so, since they do provide a vector for rust to attack the metal.
    • by zipwow ( 1695 )
      If you can stand to get sweaty, that is...

      Or rained-on, or frozen, or snowed-on. And can shower/warm up/treat frostbite at work.

      Bikes are nice, but they're not an ultimate solution in most of the country. Think Minneapolis. Think Denver. Hell, it's cold enough in Seattle that only the hard-core greens bike year round. Even then it only works if you have shower facilities at work.

  • by Cervantes ( 612861 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:53PM (#11224766) Journal
    There are times when public tranportation is useful... I was a bus man for many years.

    But, frankly, there's times when it's a pain... it's off-peak hours, the weather is crappy, you have to go a long distance with several transfers, you're picking up something that can't be easily carried around, you're going on a date (well, not YOU, per se... but a non-slashdot reader).

    I got quite sick of planning to be on the bus several hours per day when I worked on the far side of the city, but I couldn't afford the incredibly outrageous amounts for a car.

    I mean, come on folks... it's a freakin CAR, it's not made of gold, it doesn't come with a built-in treasure map... why in the name of Linus should a chunk of metal that explodes dead dinosaurs to move cost $40,000+, and have insurance, consumables, and maintenance that can add up to many thousands per year more? I think they're priced that way because we're all conditioned to think that they should be expensive.

    But, I digress. I wish this had been available when it was the right time of life for me to use it... a convenient way to have occasional access to a vehicle (an occasional requirement in a city with an extremely low population density like Edmonton) without having to bend over and take it up the ass from all the fuckers who seem to think that because the word "auto" has 4 letters, all the associated costs should have 4 digits (significant). I hope projects like these get more coverage, and help stop the rush of people going out to buy cars they can't afford with loans they can't afford on income they can't guarantee.
    • They have this great invention called "used cars" which can be had for less than $1000.
      • With few exceptions, you don't want a $1000 used car unless you are a mechanic or you are married to or at least fucking one. You're going to end up spending at least $3000 on the average least-expensive used car, either up front or in repairs you'll have to do either very soon or within the first year. People who hang onto a car so long that its resale value is that low are usually not buying a better car because they got a bunch of money, they're buying another car because the old one is about to or is in
        • I dunno, my first car was a 5500 dollar 1991 Acura Integra. That thing was a trooper - other than when my roommate crashed it (twice) it never needed any real work done, put about 60,000 miles on it. Brakes had to be resurfaced and a rotor or two replaced, but that happens with every car you street park over a New England winter in Boston (seriously, it's cheaper to just pay for a parking spot, you try to cheap out on parking it always bites you in the ass). And timing belt replacement and other schedule
    • by NardofDoom ( 821951 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @11:40PM (#11225030)
      I once heard a news story where a Chinese government official said that having a car in every garage is the sign of an advanced society.

      "That doesn't make any sense, " I thought. "If a society is advanced, a person shouldn't need a car to get around. It should be a luxury purchase."

      An advanced society is able to have effective, efficient, and cheap public transportation. The fact that we rely on cars to move people around shows how far we have to go towards an advanced society, not just a rich one.

      I would love to give up my car. I'm looking at houses within walking or biking distance of my job, so that I can lose the cost. But right now I have to drive 40 miles to and from work each day. Not because I want to, but because a long time ago a war hero who got elected president decided to cut rail funding in favor of building 30 meter wide swaths of concrete across the countryside. And then wasting my tax dollars on maintaining them.

      I just dropped $55 on an inspection and emissions test because I need to drive to and from work. That's $55 I can't spend on a new hard drive or computer. I spend $40 a week (A WEEK!) on gas because there's no way I can commute.

      I can't imagine how difficult it would be if I were someone on a limited income trying to hold down a job without a car. Public transportation doesn't go into the suburbs, where the money and jobs are, so I'd be confined to one small area for everything, or paying out the ass for taxis to haul me to and from work.

      Things have got to change.

  • by Indy Media Watch ( 823624 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:56PM (#11224788) Homepage
    Remember Lawrence Summers dictum:

    "In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car"
    • Another poster points out that that's why Flexcar has staff. They change the oil more regularly than you do, they rotate the tires more often than you do, they have the car tuned more often than you do.

      And, should you like to make yourself $5, Flexcar will also *pay you* to wash the car. It's a nice touch, when you've got extra time and have to put gas in it anyway.

      Which, by the way they pay for. AND they pay you $2 when you put their gas in it when it's under half a tank.

  • Damn! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 )

    I forgot to reserve the getaway car!

  • It's too expensive. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Schmucky The Cat ( 687075 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @11:03PM (#11224835) Homepage
    FlexCar charges both by the mile (35 cents) and by the hour (9 dollars) with a small number of free miles for each hour (generally 30).

    I live in Seattle and haven't been enthused about it.

    To take a flex car to somewhere close but inconvenient that isn't served by bus, say a doctor appointment where you need time, is going to cost about $30 just for the time.

    Or a trip to a nearby city, (Seattle to Everett) that might take an hour to drive there and back, but easily put 100 miles on a car... again, $30.

    At the $30 mark, you can easily get a rental car for the entire day. Most real rental cars have enough free miles to make nearby but long trips.

    Truly I don't know anyone who pays for FlexCar out of their own money who keeps using it.

    I'd really like it if I could just grab a FlexCar on some one-way trips, like when I see one parked in a Park and Ride, it's cold, and my bus is late... but you have to return it where you find it and it's not quite so spontaneous to take them. C'est la vie, it hasn't worked for me.

  • flexcar in San Diego (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mo ( 2873 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @11:11PM (#11224879)
    My condo in downtown San Diego only has one parking spot which is permenantly claimed by my wife's car (it's nicer than my car). If I didn't have to commute via car every day I'd gladly subscribe to the flexcar that sits a block away. Heck, the subscription would pay just for the parking spot that car occupies. I can see this being a real benefit in other places where parking is brutal like beach areas or other urban centers.
  • I first heard of them a few years ago, and checking

    1999 was when it was founded []

  • They seem cheaper than the ones mentioned in the article--$4/hr peak, $2/hr off peak, 44cents/mile. They run in the SF bay area, and are actually pretty good. I used to live near a convenient transit hub, so I hardly ever drove my car except for some grocery shopping and errands. But I still had to spend $$$ for my car, plus insurance etc.
  • New Service (Score:2, Informative)

    by daddymac ( 244954 )
    Wow. This "new" service from Flexcar has been available for at least 5 years in Portland. Nice. Just, really... nice. so new. 5+ years new.

    They seem cheaper than the ones mentioned in the article--$4/hr peak, $2/hr off peak, 44cents/mile.
    They run in the SF bay area, and are actually pretty good. I used to live near a convenient transit hub, so I hardly ever drove my car except for some grocery shopping and errands. But I still had to spend $$$ for my car, plus insurance etc. I would have loved something like this. Unfortunately, I moved out of the area, but my friends tell me thy are great
  • Maybe it'll get hacked like that bike service in hongkong. Then people would be riding around in free cars.

    Seriously though, this doesn't sound very secure/safe/good.
  • by human bean ( 222811 ) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @11:51PM (#11225081)
    When I lived in town, I realized that I was spending money on a car in order to drive it thirty minutes per day. I would drive fifteen minutes to work, let car sit for ten hours, drive fifteen minutes home, let car sit for ten hours, most weekdays. I found that I really only needed a car on the weekends.

    Then one day, my beast of burden sat down on the side of the road and died. There was no cure.

    So I went down to the local rental place, and made them a deal. I simply told them that I would like a car every weekend starting on Friday evening and that I would bring it back Sunday. I let them keep the deposit on file. They got steady business, I got whatever I needed (a clean, maintained car, truck, SUV, or convertible).

    Sure, it was not all roses. There were times when I needed a truck but had to use an SUV. The Caddy convertible was not always available, but I got by. Low and behold, when I am totalling up the charges, it came to no more than the cost I spent on my old car. Go figure.

    Now I live in the woods, so a ride is a necessity, but if I ever move back to the core, let me tell you...

  • Kind of Pricey (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iamatlas ( 597477 ) on Friday December 31, 2004 @12:31AM (#11225330) Homepage
    $8.50 to $12.50 an hour, plus $25 application fee and $100 deposit. In NJ, you can rent a car for as little as $25 a day. (Ford Focus) If you need a car for more than 2 hours or so, a rental is about as economical. A "quick run to the store" can be done with public transportation. Sure, there may be rare circumstances under which this is better than a full-service rental, but maybe not so much to build a business model on.

    Also, in a "time-share" you actually own something. Here, you are basically just a member of a club. Maybe this is all just a scam to get you application fee and $100 deposit, while paying for a rental car to boot.

  • in practice, no

    zipcar for example:

    if you rent the car for 2 hours, and you have to fill up the car with gas making you 5 or 10 minutes late (getting gas in an urban area is usually much more of a headache than a sub urban area) - you are charged when the car is returned late.

    if you use the car on a regular basis for a scheduled errand this can happen frequently. there are really three choices, call customer service to resolve the issue (there is a charge for calling them), eat the $25 late fee, or add an
  • by sharkfish ( 54213 )
    ...wonderful. Chicago has great public transportation, and since I live in the city, I don't feel the need to own a car. However, there are times when a car is handy, such as when I bought a 35 inch TV. I-Go let me rent a van/SUV which looked darned near brand new. After keying in the code, the ignition turned and off I went. I had the car for six hours...returned it right on time on a weekend evening and went home to enjoy my new TV and home gym. No, I didn't aim to buy gym equipment that day, but wh
  • by migurski ( 545146 ) <mike&teczno,com> on Friday December 31, 2004 @03:01AM (#11225950) Homepage
    I've been a happy user of City Carshare ( in San Francisco / Oakland for over two years - great service, really convenient.
  • by jonhainer ( 188206 ) on Friday December 31, 2004 @05:34AM (#11226440)
    I live in Cambridge, MA, and I used ZipCar for about three years. When I came to Boston from Kentucky, the first thing I noticed was that driving here really sucks. Besides that, I worked in the Back Bay neighborhood, and parking near work was $400 a month. Luckily, Boston has an excellent public transportation system, so for about $60 a month, I got a subway/bus pass. At that point, I realized that I was only driving two Saturdays a month. So, these two Saturdays were costing me $450 a month ($350 car payment & $100 a month insurance). It was officially cheaper to rent a car for those two days. So I got rid of my car.

    This was two years before ZipCar came into existance. Renting a car from a traditional rental agency involves going to the agency during their working hours, standing in line (frequently 1/2 hour), filling out paperwork, and returning the car during working hours. It makes no sense to rent the car for less than a day. Thus when ZipCar started up, and the booking time became 5 minutes at home and you could book for a couple hours, it was huge.

    It was only when I moved to the far west side of Cambridge, where it's easier to find a parking space near the house and there aren't 7 ZipCars within walking distance (in fact there isn't even 1) that I decided it was time to get a new car.

    From a geek standpoint, the system is extremely cool. The company issues you a card key associated with your account. You reserve the car on-line. A cell based system in the car is alerted to let the car know when you've rented it. During your rental time your card key unlocks the doors and the ignition. You can continue to drive if you go past the quiting time, but they charge you $25 for being late. In Boston, you're always late because of traffic, so it's cheaper just to rent the car for 1/2 hour or hour more than you think you'll need it.

    So in answer to some of the questions I've seen:

    (1) Why don't you just take public transportation? I did 95% of the time.

    (2) Is it reliable? Yes. The $25 late fee seems to insure that the car is back on time. I never had to wait for the car to be returned.

    (3) Is it dirty? No. There is a $50 charge for trashing the car.

    (4) Is it wrecked? For whatever reason, the cars had very few dings. If the car is in a serious accident, it is taken out of commission. The company contacts the current renters and rebooks them to different cars.

    (5) Who does the maintenance / washes the cars? The company does. If you want to wash the car yourself, the company reimburses you.

    (6) Does it make sense in every town? No, only in very dense cities that have good public transportation.

    (7) Isn't it expensive? Not compared to the price of owning a car in a big city.

    (8) Is it convenient? Yes. In Boston / Cambridge there are a ton of cars. Until I moved far enough away from the central part of the city, it was pretty easy to find a car near my home or work free at any given time (except holiday weekends).

    (9) Will it impress a woman? No, but she lives in the city, too. Meet her at a coffee shop and then take her to a nice restaurant.

  • Technical Questions? (Score:3, Informative)

    by mcguire ( 25233 ) on Friday December 31, 2004 @11:03AM (#11227648) Homepage
    I know I'm jumping in a little late here, but if anyone has any technical questions about the service (I work for Zipcar here in Boston), I'd be happy to take a shot at them.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle