Thursday, March 08, 2012

GM and Google Partner RelayRides to Offer Car Sharing Service


RelayRides, a San Francisco based startup, has just gotten a lot of help. According to a recent report in Forbes, the car-sharing service it offers has struck deals to get a few heavy hitters behind it, including Google and General Motors.

Currently offered in San Francisco and Boston, the service allows people to offer their cars for temporary rentals, often between $5-10 an hour. GM’s OnStar customers will be able to use a smart phone app that would allow renters to unlock vehicles during the rental period. Vice president of communications at OnStar, Vijay Iyer, indicated the app could launch as early as next month.

Currently, RelayRides uses electronic devices installed on the vehicles, which allows them to be unlocked, tracked by GPS, and even prevents unauthorized people from starting the engine if the car was broken in to. The car sharing service opting for the more low-tech option of just having owners hand off the keys, or the use of lockboxes. The move would save the company hundreds of dollars on each device and the cost of installation.

With new funding RelayRides plans to expand nationally. People who often use the service are higher income, and live in urban areas. Cities such as Portland, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. could be next. Car sharing services have been around for years, and there are about a dozen of them globally. Primary advantages include the convenience of being able to access a car 24-hours, whereas most rental car companies keep regular business hours. There’s also the avoidance of lines, and having to go to a store or kiosk to pick up keys.