Car-Sharing Companies Pioneer Internet of Things

As industry transforms, companies are implementing IoT technologies in myriad ways. Examining new, disruptive players in existing markets is a useful way of understanding how the face of competition is being changed.

Consider the emergence of car sharing programs, for instance.

Companies like Zipcar and car2go offer urban residents a convenient and affordable alternative to car ownership. These vehicles represent a network of connected products, and the companies are realizing a new competitive advantage through improved management, operation and servicing of the fleet while also enhancing the customer’s experience.

Both Zipcar and car2go offer membership cards that are coded with individual account information, including means of payment, and a chip that, when swiped over a mounted receiver on the windshield, unlocks the vehicle. These cards and receivers can be used by the companies to monitor usage, mileage and payment.

A single card swipe initiates communication between the car and a network to verify the account and activate the trip. This transaction reflects a control capability to enable remote operation. Similar examples include a dispatcher remotely granting access to a service technician (or a service mobile app for the technician). Future control capabilities will likely include a personalized user experience, with a vehicle expressing preferences, such as seat position, climate, and even regular destinations and trips, based on previous usage.

After the ride is over, drivers can submit feedback, via mobile app, to report on the condition of the vehicle and quality of service.

With the ability to monitor and control the vehicles from afar, car-share companies now have the opportunity to optimize operation and user experience. Data can be used to more intelligently assign and station fleet vehicles to optimize usage and reduce dormant cars.

And monitoring a fleet could go beyond service to introduce predictive maintenance, and even inform product design.

The importance of this capability is key; looking beyond car sharing services, performance and operational data can be leveraged by the actual car manufacturers. A closed-feedback loop can inform design and engineering processes to ensure that mechanical, hardware, and software problems can be addressed in updates and future models.

Finally, because smart, connected products that can communicate with other products and systems are naturally designed for autonomy, they offer yet another level of competitive advantage. For those in the car-sharing business, it means the ability to automate activities like refueling and valet services, for example.

Zipcar co-founder, Robin Chase, predicts that shared autonomous vehicles will debut on the market in the next 5-10 years.

A future of shared driverless cars might sound far-fetched, but consider that, just a decade ago, many of the capabilities described in this article seemed equally foreign.


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