Who invented it? Free-floating Carsharing | #1

Hire a car any place, any time? When first introduced, this was a groundbreaking mobility concept. But did you know that free-floating carsharing was developed by Daimler Mobility? Nowadays, our joint venture SHARE NOW has around three million customers driving in 16 major cities in 14,000 vehicles, many of them electrically powered. Find out more in our new feature series, "Who invented it?"

The Idea

Free-floating carsharing means the vehicles can be hired from a smartphone on a minute-by-minute basis, with no prior stipulation of hiring period, and then returned anywhere within the operational area – there are no set collection and return points. Along with taxes, insurance and fuel, even parking in nearly all public parking areas is included in the price per minute.

The Background

The carsharing provider SHARE NOW, whose origins go back to thejoint venture founded in 2019 between Daimler and BMW, is Europe's market leader in carsharing – and he revolutionized the concept of mobility over 10 years ago. Carsharing has been around in Germany since the late 1980s. But the idea of free-floating carsharing born at Daimler and developed to market maturity in the form of spin-off company car2go Deutschland GmbH, represented a real innovation on the carsharing market at the time.

How did it all begin? In 2007, at the Daimler headquarters offices in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, a young team from the Business Innovation department got their heads together to consider what urban mobility might look like in the future. The idea of free-floating carsharing was born – under the working title of "City Smart". This name was based on the assumption that the Smart Fortwo would be the ideal carsharing vehicle in an urban environment.

The name car2go was introduced in 2008 and quickly became the generic term for such concepts. When it was subsequently merged with the mobility offerings from BMW Group in 2019, the combination of car2go and DriveNow became SHARE NOW. The service was first tested in Ulm, the home of one of Daimler's research establishments, quickly followed by many further locations across Europe and North America. City dwellers were offered a product that gave them a level of flexibility and availability that is normally only possible with a car of one's own.

By the way, of the 14,000 vehicles that can be booked through SHARE NOW, 3550 are electrically powered. SHARE NOW also operates an all-electric fleet at four European locations, while ten further locations offering a proportion of electric-drive vehicles make it one of the major players in the field of free-floating electric-drive carsharing. As such, SHARE NOW makes a major contribution towards improving urban traffic emission levels and to relieving the burden on the environment.

The Team behind it

The concept of free-floating carsharing was developed by a small team in the innovation incubator Business Innovation(now Lab1886) – the area that then went on to create car2go Deutschland GmbH. This subsequently became part of Daimler Mobility Services GmbH – a subsidiary company of the then Daimler Financial Services AG that grouped mobility services such as mytaxi and moovel together under one roof. The development of the first telematics generation and the car2go prototypes within just six months, a task that many at the time had considered completely unrealistic, was only made possible thanks to exceptional effort from everyone involved.

These things are always difficult to begin with, but the critics were soon silenced – not least thanks to the integration of GPS and smartphone into the mobility service. The idea was passed upstairs to the bosses. The visionaries had parked a smart fortwo in the lobby of what was then the board building in Untertürkheim – ceremonially swathed in a white sheet. Since the technology was not quite ready, a model of the touchscreen was made out of cardboard and each "screen" of the rental process illustrated on cards. This staging nevertheless proved convincing and Dieter Zetsche gave the go-ahead for the roll-out in a whole series of cities.

We'll be using this series to tell you about inventions from Daimler Mobility, some more significant than others, that have changed the world forever, as well as about some of the things that were introduced here first before being adopted across the whole Daimler Group.

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