Zipcar represents a new concept in car travel: car sharing. It is a concept ideally suited to population-dense areas like cities and universities and is probably most akin to driver-less taxi cabs or hassle-free rentals.
How It Works
Zipcars are strategically placed across a neighborhood for reservation. As a Zipcar member or Zipster, you can reserve a car online or by text and use your universal Zipcard to gain entry to the vehicle. Inside, you’ll find not only the keys to start the ignition but a gas card. You pay for your use of the car by the hour or by the day and simply return the car to the spot where you found it.
While Zipcar membership is all simple and novel and lets you maybe drive a MINI Cooper, are there any neighborhoods in or around the Metro-Detroit area that even participate?
The only place in Michigan where you can currently zip around in a Zipcar is Ann Arbor. At last check, 21 Zipcars were available on the campus of the University of Michigan, including the following models:
- Ford Escape
- Toyota Matrix
- Mazda 3
- Honda Civic
- MINI Cooper
- Honda Insight Hybrid
In addition to identifying the cars by model, size and amenity, Zipcar has actually named them all. That’s right, Emily, Mitten, Eastwood and McGriff are all available to Zipsters in Ann Arbor. While the use of names rather than numbers for car identification is an endearing part of the Zipcar business model, it remains to be seen whether this will prove to be a problem in the long run. After all, when a particular Zipster and a particular Zipcar are on a first-name basis, couldn’t they develop too close of an attachment? What happens when “Emily” is seen driving down the street with another driver?
While Zipcar membership offers a new travel alternative, it is also the result of the technology that enables it. If card-key technology is available today, what might the future hold? Maybe one day car ownership will fall by the wayside, and we’ll simply use advanced car-key technology to grab the closest parked car for our use.