Available in many major cities, Zipcar is this wonderful service that allows you to rent a car by the hour with your smartphone. In my neighborhood, there are half-a-dozen Zipcars parked, just waiting to be scooped up for a quick Ikea run or jaunt to the grocery store. It makes owning a car largely superfluous, at least if you live in a city with good public transportation.
But even though I live in an area with a lot of Zipcars, it’s still hard to find one that is unused on a busy Saturday or Sunday afternoon. But now Verizon has a plan on how to compete with Zipcar, and it’s a doozy: they’re going to allow anyone turn their own car into a Zipcar, rentable by iPhone or other smartphones.
Here’s how it works, according to VentureBeat:
Auto Share, which is being shown this week at the ITS World Congress in Detroit, allows a smartphone app to scan a QR code on a car’s windshield and capture the vehicle’s unique ID number. Once validated, the smartphone user remotely receives the capability to unlock and start the compatible vehicle. A key fob for operating the vehicle will be stored inside. Auto Share will be available by the end of this year, and promotional offers and expansion into ride-sharing are in Verizon’s plans.
I think it’s a killer idea. There are a lot of people in cities who own cars that don’t get a lot of use. This is a way to make them work both for their owners and for their communities, while cutting down on the number of excess cars on the road.
Sounds like a win to me. I wonder, though, if Zipcar — which already has this sort of infrastructure in place — will beat Verizon to the punch.