The concept of carsharing–renting out vehicles by the hour–is now familiar in major cities thanks to services like Zipcar that allow users to partake of their fleet of cars. Peer-to-peer carsharing–when individuals rent out their own vehicles by the hour–is also slowly gaining ground, but most people still aren’t entirely comfortable with the idea of letting strangers borrow their car. But peer-to-peer carsharing just got a big vote of confidence from GM, which is teaming up with P2P carsharing startup RelayRides to make the idea a little bit more friendly.
RelayRides, for the uninitiated, lets anyone rent out their idle vehicles (maybe your car sits at home all day while you take public transportation to work, or sits in your office parking lot from 9 to 5), controlling the availability and price via the service’s online marketplace. The service was founded in 2010, and is currently available in San Francisco and Boston.
Now that RelayRides has partnered with GM, all Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac vehicles that are being rented out can be unlocked with customers’ cell phones, courtesy of OnStar. Other vehicle owners have to install special hardware that allows users to get in without a key. It’s a tweak that will save Relay Rides $500 per vehicle–and make the idea of P2P carsharing seem less strange. (Who wants a carsharing access device on display in their vehicle?)
So why is GM getting in the carsharing game? “We’re using technology to make both our older and newest models
carshare ready and available for those owners who choose to participate in carsharing,” said Stephen Girsky, GM vice chairman, in a statement. “Our goal is to find ways to broaden our customer reach, reduce traffic congestion in
America’s largest cities, and address urban mobility concerns.”
Translation: it’s a way to get more bodies in GM cars. If people like their experience in a RelayRides Chevy, they may consider one for their next purchase. It also makes GM look like a progressive car company. And indeed, if P2P carsharing takes off, GM may just be the first of many automakers who try to somehow get involved.