A San Francisco car-sharing startup has officially launched in Chicago to let people quickly borrow their neighbor’s car, and give owners a chance to earn some money off their idle vehicles.
Getaround, which launched in 2009 and has raised $43 million, made its debut in Chicago this week to connect people with privately-owned nearby cars. Similarly to Airbnb, Getaround lets people list when their car is available, and it provides a marketplace for users to find the best deal and the type of vehicle they’re looking for.
Getaround currently has 50 cars available in Chicago after its beta launch, and Co-Founder Jessica Scorpio said the startup is expecting Chicago to be a strong car-sharing market.
“We are really excited about Chicago because we know that it’s a young, innovative city with a lot of transportation options already,” Scorpio said. “We can come in and just give people another option. As you have more and more options like car sharing, ridesharing and bike sharing, it frees up congestions and improves air quality.”
Getaround launched initially in Chicago back in 2012, but left the city to refine its model. Getaround started out as “basically a key exchange,” Scorpio said, and the vehicle rental was dependent on the owner being around and connecting with the renter. Now, Getaround installs technology in each vehicle on its platform that allows users to unlock cars via the Getaround app, with the keys waiting for them inside. No longer does the renter need to interact with the vehicle owner.
Getaround does background checks on drivers and inspects vehicles beforehand, so all vehicle owners haver to do is list when their car is available, and renters just search for the vehicle they want and pick it up from the owner’s street or driveway. The startup also provides $1 million in insurance coverage with each trip.
Vehicles cost as low as $5/hour, but average around $8/hour and $60 per day, Scorpio said, and there’s no monthly fee.
Getaround’s Chicago launch coincides with the startup’s participation in a two-year federally funded study of peer-to-peer car sharing in Chicago. Getaround is working with the Shared Use Mobility Center and the Center for Neighborhood Technology to analyze the best car sharing practices and to see how to improve service city-wide.
Specifically, the study, funded through a $715,000 Federal Highway Administration grant, will look at three things: How car sharing works in low-density and suburban neighborhoods, how it works in large residential developments such as apartment buildings, and how it works in low and moderate-income communities, looking specifically at Bridgeport, Bronzeville, Pilsen and Roger’s Park.
“We really want to see peer-to-peer car sharing expand and do well because we think for cities it’s an amazing solution,” said Shared-Use Mobility Center Executive Director Sharon Feigon. “You’re not adding anymore cars. You’re saving people money. You’re helping the people who provide the cars make some money. It’s really potentially good all around, both environmentally and economically.”
The Shared-Use Mobility Center will be tasked with answering questions like, How can you increase car sharing adoption? How much can people really make by sharing their car? And, perhaps more importantly, how can car sharing impact those in low income neighborhoods?
“[Car sharing] can benefit a wide variety of communities,” Feigon said. “Different ages, different incomes, and different densities … We want to find out the benefits of car sharing. We want to really understand how people use their cars.”
The Shared-Use Mobility Center plans to share their finding with the car sharing industry following the two-year study.
Image via Getaround