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Daimler to Launch Car2Go Pilot in Austin: Hint, Hint Zipcar

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car2go-logoFor anyone who’s ever borrowed a car through Zipcar or San Francisco’s City CarShare program, and then grumbled over the fact that the meter runs until you return it to Point A, when you want to stay at Point B (been there, done that), prepare for a wave of envy (got that) over Daimler’s (s DAI) planned car-sharing program for Austin, Texas. The company announced yesterday that it will roll out its “mobility concept,” car2go, in the city this fall following the expansion of a pilot program in Germany.

Daimler will place 200 Smart Fortwo cars with micro-hybrid drive throughout the city. If you’re a registered member, you can pre-book the cars online or via mobile phone, or check out an available vehicle on the spot (once you register, you can swipe in using a card reader on the windshield, like ZipCar). When you’re done, you can return the car to any unoccupied parking space within a set operation area. And they charge by the minute, hour or day — so you don’t have to pay for more than you actually use. Brilliant!

OK, clearly some things could go wrong. What if there aren’t enough cars to go around? What if you get stranded and all the car2go vehicles are in use? And just how big is this operation area, anyway? It would have to be more than a few city blocks to solve my Point A-B problem. But this still sounds like an improvement that could help make a carshare/mass transit combo more practical, a step toward weaning more people from reliance on personal vehicles. Hey Daimler, how about launching a pilot in San Francisco?