Dream of driving around in a European-style Smart car but don’t want to shell out the cash to buy or lease one? Daimler AG’s Car2go car-sharing program has you covered. The pilot program in Ulm, Germany has been ultra-successful–10% of the city’s driving population uses it–as has a pilot program in Austin, Texas aimed at city employees. Now Gizmag reports that Daimler is ready to roll out the Austin program to the public in May as part of a partnership with the city.
Car2go users will be able to rent a Smart car by the minute, hour, or day, with costs of fuel, insurance, and cleaning included in the price. Unlike with Zipcar, Car2go doesn’t require that users decide upfront how long they want to use a vehicle. Users also aren’t require to park the car in designated parking spots at the end of their journeys–instead, Car2go members can track vehicle locations with GPS. Austin drivers have another major incentive to use Car2go over Zipcar: All downtown on-street parking is free with the program, which uses RFID cards to allow members access to vehicles.
So is this the Zipcar Killer? For anyone who doesn’t mind driving a Smart car, there are few incentives to use Zipcar over Car2go. Rates in the two programs are comparable, and Car2go offers a number of advantages. For vehicle variety, Zipcar can’t be beat. But for Austin residents who just want a four-wheeled vehicle for errands and day trips, Car2go is far superior.