Servco Pacific Inc. and Toyota have partnered to launch a smartphone-controlled car rental service in Honolulu.
The service, which allows users to rent, unlock and turn on vehicles through a mobile application, is set to launch later this year. The companies said they plan to station 20 Toyota Prius vehicles around residential buildings in Kakaako.
The service expedites the process of renting a vehicle for a short period, as users never have to interact with a person to register, reserve and use a vehicle. Registration and background checks are handled through the mobile application, and the smartphone’s Bluetooth connection to the vehicle will start the cars with a digital key.
“Everything is done through the mobile application,” said Casey Nishimura, senior communications and marketing manager for Servco. Users, who must be at least 18 years old, will rent and return the vehicle at the same location.
Nishimura said the prices are going to be comparable to similar, existing services and rental-car pricing.
Missouri-based Enterprise CarShare offers a similar service in downtown Honolulu, Waikiki, the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Use of an Enterprise car costs $8 an hour or $70 for an entire day. Boston-based Zipcar has vehicles stationed at Pacific Beach Hotel in Waikiki. The prices for those vehicles range from $8.75 to $10.75 an hour and $72 to $86 a day.
Nishimura said the prices “should ultimately be less. We’re just not sure what those pricing levels are.”
The companies are also still working on the brand and expect to announce the name of the service closer to its launch. The date operations begin depends on the completion of Servco’s testing of the technology on five vehicles in Mapunapuna.
“If all goes well, this is going to serve as a model for how other distributors and dealers can roll out a car-share platform in their market,” Nishimura said. “Hawaii is a good test bed for transportation and mobility options … Especially in the Kakaako area, the issues with congestion and parking, (the service) just started to make sense.”
Honolulu’s will be the first such program in the nation for Toyota. Servco partnered with Texas-based Toyota Connected, Toyota’s global technology business, to offer the short-term rental program.
“This new platform demonstrates the power of combining Toyota’s unrivaled global manufacturing and technology capacity with its extensive local partners to provide consumers with more convenient options to move,” Zack Hicks, chief executive officer of Toyota Connected and chief information officer at Toyota Motor North America, said in a prepared statement.
“We jumped at the opportunity to pilot this new mobility platform as an operational partner with Toyota,” said Mark Fukunaga, chairman and CEO of Servco, in a prepared statement. “Servco and Toyota have a long and close history going back to the 1950s.”
Servco is Hawaii’s exclusive Toyota distributor.
The companies said other Toyota and Lexus vehicles, such as the Corolla, C-HR, Tacoma and RX, are expected to be added later to the program.
Servco is also still in negotiations with building and land owners about which areas in downtown and Kakaako the stations will be placed at.
Short-term rental programs are one of the most effective ways to reduce oil consumption in transportation, said Shem Lawlor, clean transportation director at Blue Planet Foundation, noting that every vehicle in such services typically reduces 10 to 15 cars on the road.
“The best way to think about car sharing is it’s a grocery shopping car,” he said.
Lawlor said that by providing a “grocery shopping car,” the service removes a major reason compelling people to purchase their own vehicle.
“There are a lot of people who can take transit to or from school but they can’t do other things like grocery shopping or running errands, or go to the beach without a car. Because of that, they feel compelled to buy a car,” he said. “Once you buy a car, it’s a really substantial fixed-cost investment. You’re paying $5,000 to $10,000 a year in fixed costs … and so if you are going to do that then the rational economic factor is to drive the car as much as possible.”
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