BMW's DriveNow like ZipCar only better?
More signs that the era of the personal automobile may be slowly coming to an end: BMW is launching an interesting new car-sharing system in Munich next month, with plans to bring it worldwide.
Called DriveNow, the system will use about 300 cars—both Mini Coopers and BMW 1-Series models. After registering for the system for a one-time payment of €29 (about $41 at the moment), you can look up cars in your area, reserve a free one, unlock it electronically, drive it anywhere within the service boundaries, and drop it off wherever it's convenient. For each ride you simply pay 29 cents per minute, up to €14.90 (about $21) per hour (you pay no extra for gas).
It seems like an especially simple system, and the price is reasonable. At $21 per hour, it would be cheaper than a cab—even cheaper than parking in some cities. The fact that every account is linked to a driver's license will presumably deter theft and vandalism. Hopefully 300 cars will be enough to give Müncheners confidence that one will be available when they need it.
Everyone loves ZipCar, that handy service for urbanites who need to rent a car for quicky errands rather than whole days at a time. But just like every other damn thing, Europe seems to do this idea slightly better. BMW just launched a service in Munich called DriveNow, which is just like ZipCar -- except instead of trundling to obscure garages, you can pick up and drop off the cars anywhere on the street. Oh, and every car is a BMW or Mini Cooper. Check it out, and prepare to be jealous:
Zipcar users know that the main irritant is having to schlep to the nearest garage that houses the vehicles -- and having to go all the way back when you're done, which drastically limits how you can use the cars. (No commuting, and forgetting getting from A to B; instead, it's A to B to A.) With DriveNow, you just pick your Beemer up off the street, and when you're done, leave it wherever you happen to be -- no "returning" necessary. And, of course, you find your DriveNow car in the first place the same way you find everything these days: via a dedicated location-aware smartphone app. That way, wherever you are (in Munich, that is), you can fire up the DriveNow app and find the nearest "ultimate driving machine" to help you get your grocery shopping done or whatever. Thus, if you're ever stuck in a situation where you unexpectedly need a car, you can get one.
BMW has also cooked up some small but innovative additions to car-sharing business as usual. First, the fact that a DriveNow subscriber can convert their normal driver's license into a digital "key" to unlock the DriveNow cars is total genius -- that's one less extra card to worry if you have with you whenever the urge to motor strikes. Second, not only is fuel included, but parking is free in city limits, too. (In Munich, it pays to be one of the city's largest and most famous companies.)
the initial fleet of 300 cars should be enough to keep Munich residents motoring, at a better-than-taxi rate of 29 cents per minute. (Don't forget: that includes parking. Sweet, sweet parking.) If this pilot program goes well, maybe BMW will port it over to the U.S. Hell, if I'm going to make a run to the Fairway Market (New Yorkers: you know what I'm talkin' about), I might as well do it in a luxury car that I can dump anywhere on my block when I get home!
Here are a few videos demonstrating how the system works: