Forget Automakers, Now AAA Wants to Lend You a Car

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
forget automakers now aaa wants to lend you a car

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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  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂