By on April 20, 2017

2015_Toyota_Prius_c_007

Automakers, both domestic and come-from-away, all want you to do the next best thing if your meager funds aren’t enough to get you into a showroom: borrow a car.

Ride-sharing services provide mainly urban dwellers with the car they so desperately crave, without the years of payments or need to find permanent parking. And, if an automaker partners up with a service provider — or creates its own — there’s still money flowing back to the offices of Big Auto. Win-win, no?

The growing trend is hard to ignore, and it means that automakers — already new to the game — face ever greater competition, even from unlikely sources. The latest company to offer a ride-sharing service isn’t a manufacturer at all. It’s the American Automobile Association.

Through its A3 Ventures innovation lab, AAA has created a ride-sharing startup called Gig. Ready to launch as a pilot project in the San Francisco area this month, the service capitalizes on the trend — one that the automotive nonprofit feels will soon become a much larger part of the transportation picture. After all, when you’re a tech-focused Millennial paying thousands of dollars a month to live in a shoebox in a major urban center, who has the money (or space) for a car?

Unlike other services, this one lets you be as spontaneous and lazy as you want. The app lets you locate a nearby car using your phone, unlocks it, and off you go. When you’re through with the vehicle, simply leave it in a parking space in the right area.

“Unlike traditional station-based models where you go out shopping for the day and you’re paying for the car while you’re not using it, while it’s sitting there parked, with the one-way model, you can take a car, drive to where you’re going, end your trip, and not have to pay for a vehicle while you’re doing whatever you’re doing,” Mike Hetke, executive vice president and chief innovation officer at AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah, told Fast Company. “And then grab a different car to drive back home.”

The cities of Oakland and Berkeley have agreed to let Gig cars park on city streets, even in some metered spots, as studies show that a ride-sharing vehicle is capable of removing up to 11 vehicles from the road.

In choosing a vehicle to serve as the go-to runabout, AAA followed the prevailing social winds and went the green route — a decision that undoubtedly helped win over the municipal government. All 250 Gig cars in the Bay area are Toyota Prius C models.

Given that this is a pilot project, it could expand to other areas. Of course, that’s assuming local governments buy into the concept.

“You can’t do this on your own,” said Hetke. “It requires participation and partnership with the municipalities to create the super permits that enable this model. And so you have to convince municipalities, and there’s a number of competing factors for municipalities to consider.”

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26 Comments on “Forget Automakers, Now AAA Wants to Lend You a Car...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Even though I have 4 licensed and insured cars in the driveway, I belong to a ride sharing service and have joined 2 of my children.

    Better and easier to jump on the subway and then grab a car from the service when touring around downtown Toronto.

    Also much easier to get a van/pick-up for moving things as you can reserve them by the hour and they are available 24/7.

    And if I want to try out a car for an hour or a day, then they have a number of different makes and models available.

    As for young/millenial urban condo dwellers, a significant number see no need to own a car. If they can find a parking spot at their condo, it can sell/change hands for more than $50k and most condos have only limited parking. Add in the high cost of insurance and the fact that by living in the city centre they rarely need a vehicle, then car sharing is the way to go. My daughter has 5 Zipcars in her condos parking lot, plus over a dozen vehicles from it and 2 other car sharing services within about 200 yards of her condo.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I have ran into several younger people who don’t have a car, never had a license. I’m like, do you want one? “What?” a car and/or license dipsh¡t lol no I am nice. Anyway its usually “I guess” or “got no money”. But, you work. ….????….. I don’t (steadily), and I have a car that is legal and roadworthy, as am I. My life is pretty miserable without it. We’re co-dependant, that car and me. Lol

      Anyway, they’re in their 20s! Ha I could not IMAGINE not having a car as soon as my feet could reach the pedals. Guess that’s just not how it is for these.

      I can see living downtown and needing no car, but for me, it just wouldn’t feel right. I mean I’ve lived in a downtown apartment before with cars and played the street parking merry-go-round. But I had like four cars so that was my fault, ha.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    “when you’re a tech-focused Millennial paying thousands of dollars a month to live in a shoe box in a major urban center, who has the money (or space) for a car?”

    I hate these people.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Corey,
      $2k per year for insurance, plus car payments, plus parking costs, plus maintenance, plus fuel to drive it possibly one day each weekend.

      So why bother when you can just use an App to get one whenever you need one and never have to worry about any of the above, except possibly for parking?

      • 0 avatar
        Corey Lewis

        $2k a year on insurance? Is this full coverage on a 7-Series?

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          For an Ontario driver in Toronto under the age of 25. Driving a 12 year old Buick, with 7 years of driving, no claims, no accidents and 1 ‘moving violation’.

          As someone eligible for senior discounts, with 40 plus years of driving, no claims or accidents for over 30 years and 1 ticket in the past 25 years, my cost is still over $1,500 annually.

          For someone under 25 with BMW 7 series if they could get insured it would be well over $5k per year.

          • 0 avatar
            Cactuar

            Hmm 1500$ sounds like a lot. My wife and I are in our early thirties with clean records in Quebec and our car insurance is 650$/yr for our Odyssey. I got a quote last week for adding an old BMW 5 series and it jumped to 775$/yr. Full coverage with highest deductible (emergency fund takes care of it). Maybe insurance is generally cheaper in Qc?

            Edit: I should add that this is for 8000 km on the Honda and 2000 km on the BMW.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Cactuar: Ontario unfortunately has the highest auto insurance rates in Canada. And the Toronto area has the highest rates in Ontario.

            The annual cost for auto insurance for my ‘family’ (paid by me) is just over $5,400 and that is with a high deductible.

            Plus $500 in monthly toll fees. A little more than that for fuel. Plus maintenance and car payments.

          • 0 avatar
            Cactuar

            Interesting Arthur, do you know why that is?

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Generally past claims history, population density, traffic volume (the 401 along Toronto is either holds the most or the 2nd most traffic volume of any road in N.A.) and the fact that many other provinces have government/provincial auto insurance available, or take a firmer stand against ‘price gouging’. And of course auto insurance is mandatory.

          • 0 avatar
            Cactuar

            I was curious so I had a look at my vehicle registration renewal slip for 2017 and out of a total of 217$, there is 64$ that goes to what the gov calls “insurance contribution”. This could explain the lower rates, since the population at large subsidizes a part of the cost through plate renewals.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    Also, you want me to temporarily borrow a Prius C, which I have to be seen in while driving myself about?

    There are nine things wrong with that sentence.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Expand your horizons man. Globalization has taken place. Unless you want to build a wall around downtown S.F. :-)

    And another benefit of our car sharing program. One of my kids was able to go to Europe on a vacation and use their car sharing membership there.

    It also covered the cost of insurance and fuel, which amount to considerable savings.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      That’s a great advantage, one that could come in handy (being used out of the country). Is a healthy portion of their fleet (in Europe obviously) equipped with a stick-and-clutch?

      I would become a member of such a service that used Fiesta EcoBoosts in the U.S.. 3 pot turbo, manual, little happy hatchback, wait, how do you remove driving history record from the car computer?

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        John, in most major European cities both manuals and automatics are available. In those cities with smaller fleets, generally automatics. They have vehicles in pretty much every major European city and are expanding rapidly across North America. And your membership is good for any of their vehicles, anywhere in the world. 24/7 availability and you can book the vehicles by the hour, day, weekend or week.

        You log-in, check the location(s), review the profiles of the vehicles and then book the one that you want.

        Your membership fee covers insurance (for a slightly increased fee you can get a zero deductible policy), fuel, 24/7 roadside assistance. In some cities you can also use for free the parking spaces that they have reserved for their vehicles.

        It’s generally less expensive for me to take public transit (train or subway) into downtown Toronto and use one of their vehicles than to drive my own into the city and pay for parking.

        My daughter walks to work from her condo. If she needs a vehicle there are over 2 dozen within about 200 yards of her condo, including 5 right in its parking area. She books a vehicle, uses it and then returns it. No muss, no fuss and no worries about repairs, maintenance, insurance or parking. If she were able to get a parking spot in her condo’s garage and there are very few, then it would cost her a minimum of $50k to purchase one.

    • 0 avatar
      Salzigtal

      Ixnay on the Allway talk. A number of SF Neighborhood Associations would cheer the construction. There are probably enough barracuda law firms downtown to force POTUS Asteriscus V to pay for the labor & materials. BART would be overloaded. FYI no parking included with the nearest condos, $300 mo. to lease. Although, the spots are more sq. ft. than some Craig’s List apts.

  • avatar

    In areas where there are toll roads such a loaner car would be a ‘steal’ if it comes with an E-Z Pass.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      In Ontario which has the most expensive toll road in North America, the 407, you can use your ‘shared car’ on this highway and you get charged only the toll cost for kms driven.

      If you travel on it with a rental car, then you get charged an administrative fee plus the mileage tolls.

      If travel on it with your own vehicle then you either have to pay a monthly ‘transponder’ fee and account fee plus mileage tolls or you get charged an administration fee for each trip, plus the toll cost.

      And if you do not pay, then the Province will not renew the license of the vehicle that the fees were charged to.

  • avatar
    zip89123

    Now I know why AAA doubled my rates. Screw AAA.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    AAA’s Canadian equivalent has actually been doing this for more than 2 years, albeit only in Vancouver. I think they only use Prius C’s as well, although they all have colour-coordinated ski/bike racks on them as well. They seemed to be common enough when I was there for a couple weeks in the fall.

    https://www.bcaa.com/learning-centre/bcaa-newsroom/news-releases/24-03-2015-bcaa-launches-evo

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Is the Prius C the best looking Prius? Isn’t it just a Hybrid Yaris? I don’t care. I think its better looking.


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