The “car2go” project has commenced with more than 13,000 workers signing up for memberships allowing them to share 200 Smart ForTwo vehicles in and around the city.
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said she believed the new system would revolutionise transportation the city.
“This pilot-program partnership between car2go and the City of Austin represents a significant step toward helping us alleviate congestion, reduce emissions and increase the use of public transportation.”
Unlike traditional car sharing programs, car2go customers have the option of booking in advance or simply jumping into available cars on the street and driving for as long as they like without committing to a return time.
Members are allowed to make one-way trips and can use the vehicles 24/7, with rates based on time not distance and calculated by the minute.
Daimler’s Dr Thomas Weber believes car2go will prove to be a viable and successful public transport system.
“car2go is an innovative answer to current and future mobility needs in urban areas.
“We are pleased with the success we achieved in Ulm, Germany – the first car2go city - and we are ready for the next logical step on our way to an international rollout,” he said.
The car2go scheme was implemented in Ulm one year ago and is also running a fleet of 200 Smarts.
Between 500 and 1000 trips are made each day by the 15,000 registered users, and 90 per cent of those trips are spontaneous, one-way pick-ups.
A service team looks after the maintenance of the vehicles, ensuring that they are refuelled and cleaned.
Drivers also have the option of refuelling themselves on longer journeys using a pre-paid credit card in the glovebox.
car2go also makes parking meters a thing of the past, with all fees covered under the registration payment.
North America car2go CEO, Nicholas Cole, said the pilot project in Austin was all about gathering enough experience to successfully expand the program globally in the future.
“In the second phase we will increase the number of cars in Austin and open the service to the public. We are also talking to a large number of cities in North America and Europe about additional rollouts of car2go.”
by Tim Beissmann