RelayRides is expanding, and as of this morning the car-sharing startup is making its brand of car sharing available to car owners and renters nationwide. For the first time, the benefits of car sharing are now available in smaller urban markets, the suburbs, or even in rural areas thanks to the company’s peer-to-peer model based on neighbors renting out their cars to fellow neighbors by the hour or by the day. This contrasts with car-sharing stalwart Zipcar’s model that requires the company to own and maintain a fleet of cars.
In an interview with California Streets last week in advance of the announcement, RelayRides founder Shelby Clark said he hopes this will help many families ditch their private autos and instead use shared cars.
“I think there are plenty of families who fall in between the number of cars that they need – they sometimes need a second car, and usually end up rounding up and buying two”, Clark said. “We want to help them round-down and borrow a car from their neighbors when they need it.”
The expansion will use a key exchange model – drivers will simply arrange to give the keys to the renter. This allows car owners to enroll and start making money from their vehicles right away, but it is a departure from the model RelayRides has used in the launch markets of Boston and San Francisco. In those markets, a hardware device was installed in vehicles allowing renters to unlock a reserved car with just their membership card.
Clark downplayed the notion that key exchange would be any less convenient for renters and instead emphasized how much easier it would now be for car owners to get involved. He also referenced the company’s partnership with GM, that will make all cars enrolled in the OnStar service “RelayRides-ready” when it goes online later this year.
“We aren’t moving away from electronic access”, Clark said. “Think about Airbnb – thousands of people use that sites and have no problem with key exchange.”
Clark also thinks the market will come up with ways to improve on the key exchange model, such as having a lock box or leaving the keys with a neighbor. Key exhcange also “reduces costs and operational complexity” for the company, he said, making this nationwide expansion possible.
Previously on California Streets: “How I Learned That Peer-To-Peer Car-Sharing Perpetuates Urbanism: My First Trip With RelayRides“