General Motors has launched a new car sharing service, Maven, in the United States.
At launch Maven will be restricted to just 21 parking spots around the city of Ann Arbor, around 65 kilometres west of Detroit, Michigan.
As with other car sharing services, Maven allows members to hire cars by the hour via a smartphone app. Once booked, the driver turns up to their vehicle at the allotted time and unlocks the car via the smartphone app. All Maven vehicles dispense with traditional keys as each is fitted with push button start.
Prior to the end of the booking, the driver returns the car to its original car park and locks it via the smartphone app. Fuel is paid for, but daily travel is limited to 290km, with travel beyond that mark charged on a per kilometre basis.
The automaker has already committed to expanding Maven's availability to Chicago during the first quarter of 2016. It will also rebrand its current car sharing service in New York City from Let’s Drive NYC to Maven.
Maven will then slowly roll out to other metro areas throughout the US later this year. GM has so far made no comment about when, or if, Maven may be available internationally.
Being a part of GM, it's no surprise to learn that Maven's vehicle fleet is restricted to in-house models. At launch the new car sharing service will offer members a choice between four Chevrolets: the Spark hatch, the Volt plug-in hybrid, the Malibu family sedan, and the Tahoe (the Suburban's short-wheelbase relative).
The company will have a big task ahead of it as it seeks to disrupt car-sharing incumbents, such as Zipcar, which already have an established membership base, wider footprint and larger selection of vehicles.
In addition, Maven will face stiff competition from traditional car rental services. According to Maven's website, pricing per hour for the Spark and Volt is US$6, while the Malibu is US$8, and the Tahoe US$12.
While these numbers slightly undercut the rates offered by Zipcar, it's Maven's daily pricing where significant savings can be found, with the Volt and Spark listed at US$42 per day, the Malibu at US$56, and the Tahoe yours for just US$84. For comparison, a Honda Civic is listed at US$89 per weekday at Zipcar.
The launch of Maven follows on from a report in Bloomberg claiming that GM recently purchased defunct Uber-rival Sidecar for around US$39 million. Sidecar shut down its services in December 2015.
Earlier this month, GM invested US$500 million in Lyft, Uber's main competitor in the ride-sharing business in the USA. In announcing the deal, Dan Ammann, GM's president, noted that "we see the future of personal mobility as connected, seamless and autonomous, ... [and] we believe we can successfully implement this vision more rapidly."