Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Digital Keys and Hertz 24/7 more than a game changer - a life changer

There is mounting evidence to show that as a society we have reached “Peak Car” – e.g see here.

It seems that the younger generation, or “Generation Y’ or ‘Milenials’, or ‘Generation Dot Com’ or ‘Generation Next’ or whatever term you like to refer to ‘the generation of people born between the early 1980’s to the early 2000’s’ are “just not that into owning cars!”.

The recent global launch of Hertz 24/7,(27/6/2013) a revolutionary new ‘rental service available anywhere, anytime, day or night,’ will help continue to accelerate the trend away from car ownership. Is this a good thing?

This Hertz expansion is a game changer for the car rental industry because for the first time customers will be able to rent a wide variety of vehicles near their home or work when needed and for any length of time - hourly, daily, weekly or monthly. Hertz estimates that by 2016, it will have "self-serve" vehicles within minutes of the majority of the United States population, in 12,000 locations, with the opportunity to use ‘one-way’ services.

This makes total sense right? Why would you bother owning a car, and paying rego, and insurance, and service costs, and tolls, and skyrocketing petrol prices, when you can walk out the front of your house, and rent a car from Hertz for as little as $5 an hour with only your smartphone? Hertz 24/7 for 'one hour' can be cheaper than taxi’s, and even cheaper than public transport.

And you can even choose a different type of car each time you want to go out! Want to drive an Audi for $8 an hour? Pull out your smartphone and locate one nearby, make the booking and payment in your app, and receive your time-sensitive digital key downloaded inside the app, hold your phone up to the car door to open it, press the button next to the steering wheel to start the car, and drive off. And you can do all this in under 30 seconds. Want to drive a topless BMW for $10 an hour, then walk to the shops at the end of the street, pull out your smartphone and off you go.

What makes this all possible is 'Digital Keys' and its combination with other technologies. Digital Keys is all about using your smartphone to book and access a space without physical keys (and interface with other systems such as online payments and ‘GPS tracking’).

Digital Keys means you no longer have to make your way to a car rental office to pick up keys, and sign paperwork to rent a car. Digital Keys therefore means the cars can be stored in shopping centres, CBD car parks, local petrol stations/convenient stores, or even at your neighbour’s garage. You key to the car is delivered to your smartphone, and your key will only work for the period which you have reserved the car for.

Once you have signed up for membership the entire car rental process at Hertz 24/7 can take as little as 30 seconds. All your details are stored in their Hertz 24/7 cloud databases. No more paperwork. The traditional way of renting a car would be atleast a 30 minute exercise.  No more signing pages of forms, deciding which one of the array of insurance options you are going to choose, waiting for the staff to wander around the vehicle half a dozen times with the clipboard looking for any tiny scratch, before finally receiving the key to the car.

As a ‘Generation Xer’ I often wonder how different my life would've been if Digital Keys was around when I was growing up. My first car was a 1972 Datsun 1200 I bought in 1994. For $200, it came with ‘designer rust holes on the floor’, and a constant leaking brake fluid problem.  Sure it was cheap, but it was an unsafe car. I was always nervous driving it around. It would constantly break down. One time, after a midnight screening of Pulp Fiction, with my girlfriend in the car, my car broke down on the way back to her house. We didn’t have mobile phones back then, so I had to lock my girlfriend in the car, and walk for about 45 minutes at 3am in the freezing cold to find a petrol station to call the local roadside assistance association. I can tell you that my girlfriend at the time didn’t invite me in to her house after this ordeal, when I finally got her home at about 4am. This was not a good way to impress a girl!

By 2016, with Hertz 24/7 and Digital Keys, I will be able to use my phone to pick up a topless BMW at the shops at the end of my street, drive to my girlfriends house and pick her up, take her to a midnight movie screening, return to her house, drop the car off at the shops on the corner of her house and stay the night. And I will be able to all this for less than the cost of a one movie ticket!

If I wanted to rent a topless BMW back in 1994, it probably would've cost me the same price for that one night to rent the car, as it cost me to buy my car -ie around $200. I probably would've had to spend half of my afternoon catching a bus to the car rental office first to pick up that car too.

Vive la Digital Keys revolution!

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