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ORAC
18th Apr 2005, 07:19
BBC:

Chris McRobbie is a website designer with clients across the city of Boston. Several times a month he goes online to book a Zipcar, often at a moment's notice. He can choose from a variety of styles.

He then heads for a designated location, sometimes inside a multi-storey car park or along a back street.... There is never any paperwork and he does not have to arrange insurance because all drivers are pre-screened and covered automatically. Once he locates the car, Chris uses his plastic membership card to unlock it....

Attached to the windscreen is an RFID (radio frequency ID) reader, and a plastic card containing an RFID chip is given to each member. An RFID reader and black box allow minimal human interaction The door and ignition will only unlock at the start of the booking, so stealing such a car is difficult. The engine must also be switched off by the end of the rental period or an additional late fee is imposed. Extra time can be purchased by phone during the booking if needed.

The RFID reader is connected to a wireless "black box" within the car. Packets of data are sent to and from the vehicle in real time to let it know who will be turning up and when. No human interaction is usually needed.

Roy Russell, Zipcar's chief technology officer, says: "We can disable the ignition if necessary, and we can read the odometer [mileometer] on the vehicle. "That allows us to control the car to some extent, and it allows us to track the usage on that vehicle, so when one of our members returns a car we know how far they've driven."

The automated nature of the business means it is a 24/7 operation, unlike many traditional rental companies.

The cars are on a GPRS (general packet radio service) network rather than a GPS (global positioning system), because it is more reliable in big cities, as Scott Griffith, Zipcar's CEO explains.

"Our system using cell towers is often more accurate in tracking in the tight urban markets that we operate in. "GPS satellites require line of sight visibility between the satellite and the asset it's tracking. When you get into a big city with tall buildings sometimes that's tough to do. "With our system, we're able to find a car whether we're able to get a line of sight to it or not, because we're using radio waves not line-of-sight waves from a satellite. "We turn that system on if a car is not where it is supposed to be."....

Now the goal is to make every vehicle in the fleet accessible with a Bluetooth device.....

IB4138
18th Apr 2005, 07:32
I've decided not to hire a car for a trip to Manchester this coming weekend.
Car hire charges in the UK are a rip off and where I want to go the public transport is good and cheap.

ShyTorque
18th Apr 2005, 08:16
I'm a great believer in public transport and used it all the time whilst living in HK, where they have it very well organised. However, in UK it's now a (another) national disgrace and mainly ineffective unless you travel only in a major city.

Car hire charges aren't always a rip-off. My company gets a hire car for 36 a day, delivered to the required minor airport location and collected afterwards. A taxi to and from the nearest hotel costs 50 and we sometimes have to wait for an hour for one to arrive. We then need another taxi if we need leave the hotel for any reason. Still a lot of money but no contest after a long day and especially when you are faced with minimum crew rest.

Onan the Clumsy
18th Apr 2005, 11:58
Yeah, ZipCar is in a few cities now and there's another commpany that does the same thing too. It's a great idea. Remember the pink bicycles? Amsterdam I think that was, but I'm npt sure.

High Wing Drifter
18th Apr 2005, 12:03
Onan,

You mean the white bicycles. They were still fishing them out of the Browersgracht 2 years after they all disappeared. In terms of petty tea leafing, Liverpool has nothing on Amsterdam!

Send Clowns
18th Apr 2005, 12:42
They used to have green ones in Cambridge. I was filmed by a news crew taking one, and it was shown on Newsround when they had a story about the scheme, and then the story about the failure of the scheme. They were recoverd bicycles unclaied from the police, and mostly ended up in the Cam.

Buster Hyman
18th Apr 2005, 13:46
He then heads for a designated location, sometimes inside a multi-storey car park or along a back street....
And if he's really lucky, it wont be on blocks and missing the wheels.