I always like good ideas and some weeks ago I registered for BMW's, Mini's and Sixt's new and innovative DriveNow service, the three companies launched last summer in Munich and which is now also available in Berlin and Düsseldorf. DriveNow puts cars across a pre-defined operating area within a city and registered customers can simply stop-by, take one of the cars and drive around. Basically, DriveNow allows to virtually leave the car wherever you want and therefore it can be much cheaper and more flexible than a taxi or more traditional rental-car. As I said, I've registered for DriveNow some weeks ago and today I gave the Android app as well as DriveNow itself a test-drive through Munich.
Before you can drive one of the DriveNow cars, you have register online at DriveNow and collect your personal DriveNow ID, a kind of RFID-chip which is put on your driving license. From now, you are ready to use the service and DriveNow vehicles, at the moment DriveNow has BMW 1 Series, BMW X1, Mini Cooper/Mini Cooper D, Mini Clubman and Mini Cabrio available, can be found on the streets and nearby parking garages within the business area. The vehicles are marked with the DriveNow logo.
If the DriveNow ID scanning device in the windscreen is illuminated green, you can register for this vehicle with your DriveNow ID and open it.
Alternatively, DriveNow vehicles can be located via the mobile app on your smartphone from where an appropriate car can be also reserved in advance (up to 15 minutes). At the moment, DriveNow is offering an Android and iOS app.
After a car was reserved and/or found, it's opened with the DriveNow ID and the car welcomes you with your name.
Now you have to enter your PIN code via the display of the In-Car System, evaluate the cleanliness and state of damage of the vehicle and you're ready to drive.
Quite interesting, as you can see on the photos above, is the fact that DriveNow is using Android devices as its so called "In-Car System". These smartphones, at the moment it looks like DriveNow is using Dell Streak 5s, are connected with Telefoníca O2's mobile data network and are therefore able to submit the car's current position and tank level (as shown in the screenshots above).
During the drive, the "In-Car System" shows the car's position on the map and gives the drive an idea if he's within or outside the business area, as well as it can be used as a GPS navigation system.
As soon as the engine is turned off, the car can be either parked for a reduced tariff or the use can be stopped, as DriveNow calls it, the reservation can be ended.
If the reservation is ended, the In-Car System reminds you to close all windows, doors and sunroof and the car can be looked from outside to make it again available for someone else.
I really like it if mobile technology can help to make an idea a great product and the combination of DriveNow's mobile app and the In-Car System is such an example which allows to conveniently use car sharing, not to say that it's a key enabler. The concept by itself is pretty promising! Not everyone who's living downtown is really in need for his or her own car but in today's world it's hard to live without access to a car. DriveNow gives easy and convenient access to a car and the use of Android makes the reservation and use even more convenient. Sure, 29 Euro Cent per driving minute and 10 Euro Cent per parking minute might be a little bit over the top, on the other hand it includes all insurances and gas, there are no extra or hidden costs at all, except of the initial membership/setup fee.
While the end-user Android app is quite a little bit buggy, it crashed a couple of times, overall it's pretty handy since it allows to find the nearest DriveNow car and reserve it. The DriveNow car location is displayed pretty accurate, it's really amazing and it shouldn't be a problem at all to find the reserved car. Quite fascinating is what DriveNow did with the Android In-Car System. It's totally locked down to the DriveNow in-car app and it's super easy to use, even for less tech-savvy customers; as a matter of fact it's pretty straight forward and it takes less than 2 minutes to start a journey.
All together it's a neat idea and system and I'm sure I will use it quite frequently. If only the business area in Munich would be a little bit widespread.
Cheers ~ Arne