Originally published on Gas2.
If car sharing is the wave of the future, BMW intends to be ready. It is in the process of introducing its DriveNow carsharing service to Seattle, where it will compete with a similar service operated by Mercedes called Car2Go. Several Seattle residents have reported seeing BMW i3 cars with Seattle carsharing stickers in the Bellville neighborhood. Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan told GeekWire this week that the city has issued 63 carsharing permits to BMW.
When asked for comment, DriveNow declined to offer specifics. “BMW remains dedicated to solving the many transportation challenges faced by major cities – and interested in mobility services such as car sharing,” a spokeswoman said via email. “We are currently exploring the potential to work with a number of U.S. cities who are welcoming car sharing in their communities and offering the parking permits necessary to operate one-way flexible car sharing.”
The arrival in Seattle comes just three months after BMW suspended its DriveNow service in San Francisco. The company and the city got into a dispute over parking permit regulations that prevent carsharing programs from parking vehicles on public streets. How odd that San Francisco, which is home to an influx of tech companies and renowned as ground zero for liberalism in America, should be obstructionist when it comes to embracing what clearly will be an important form of urban mobility in the future.
“While we are disappointed to be leaving the Bay Area, we are excited about new prospective cities who are welcoming car sharing in their communities and offering the parking permits necessary to operate one way flexible car sharing,” DriveNow wrote in a statement on its website.
— Mon-Chaio Lo (@rmclo) February 16, 2016
Car2Go, which is owned by Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, has been a big hit in Seattle since its launch 3 years ago. The company lets people locate and rent available Smart cars with their smartphone or computer, drive to their destination, and park the vehicle in any approved city parking spot. The company has plans to add another 250 vehicles to its Car2Go fleet in Seattle. “The program has been wildly successful,” transportation committee chairman Tom Rasmussen said last year.
In January 2015, the Seattle city council cleared the way for up to 3 more carsharing companies to operate in the city. Each company can receive 500 permits to start, and up to 750 if they agree to provide service across the city. That means there could be up to 3,000 cars available to people looking to get from point A to B in Seattle.
Car2Go now has more than 75,000 members sharing 741 vehicles in Seattle. “Since we launched in Seattle in December 2012, our mission has been to provide an innovative mobility solution that makes it easier for Seattle residents and visitors alike to get from Point A to Point B,” says Car2Go Seattle general manager Michael Hoitink. “We believe that an effective transportation system in any city is one with a wide range of options. Additional transportation options that complement existing modes is a win for the City of Seattle.”
In Seattle, Car2go rents its cars for 41 cents per minute, $14.99 per hour, or $84.99 per day. When the driver is done using the car, it must be parked in an approved city street parking spot, which can be anywhere in a designated “home area.” Pricing for BMW’s DriveNow program in Seattle has not been announced.
Photo by BMW