Might cities one day close their streets off to personal vehicles, instead running or providing fleets of high-efficiency compacts, plug-ins and electric vehicles through third-party providers on a pay-as-you-go basis? That may not be such a far-fetched idea.
Cities around the country are trying to come to grips with traffic congestion and all the emissions, heat, noise and safety issues associated with personal vehicle use.
Mayors around the country have committed to the Clean Cities program, and federal agencies have just released funding to support energy efficiency and emissions reduction efforts promised by recently passed “green” stimulus legislation.
The issue is also attracting interest from the private sector, both from outside and within the auto industry, including the likes of Germany’s Daimler AG.
Austin, Ulm & Daimler Team Up for “car2go” Pilot Test
With entrepreneurial start-ups such as Israel-based Better Place looking to address the problem by building out plug-in vehicle recharging infrastructure, the time certainly seems ripe for some innovative, “greener” conceptual thinking on the part of the auto industry.
Germany’s Daimler–best known for its Mercedes Benz line of luxury vehicles– has stepped up to the plate with its ultra-compact gas and, more recently, plug-in hybrid Smart cars.
The Stuttgart-based auto company is now proposing something even a bit more radical and “out of the box”–the “car2go” urban mobility program, which according to Daimler, “provides a simple, flexible, and cost-effective solution for city driving.”
In contrast to traditional car-sharing programs, car2go allows registered users access to vehicles on an as needed basis at any time of day by enabling them to reserve a vehicle at a moment’s notice via mobile phone or the Web. The vehicle can be used for as long as needed and returned to any available parking location within the defined area of operation. Payment is based on number of miles driven.
Having tested the concept in the German city of Ulm, Austin, Texas announced late last week that it was partnering with Daimler to launch a larger, pilot test of the program.
The first international pilot in the Texas capital is slated to get up and running this fall with an initial fleet of about 200 fuel-efficient “smart fortwo” cars. The U.S. introduction coincides with the expansion of the pilot in Ulm, Germany, where the company opens the service to the public on March 26 after the internal test which started last October.
The mayors of Austin, Ulm and Daimler execs seem pretty jazzed about the whole thing. Check out the video.