In case taxi cabs, Uber, and the T don’t do it for you, Zipcar has begun testing its own program for one-way travel in Boston.
The Boston-based ride sharing company announced in May that it would launch a new program, conveniently called ONE>WAY, which allows patrons to pick up a car at one location and drop it off somewhere else. One month later, Zipcar says the program is off to a good start.
Zipcar has previously offered only round-trip options, forcing customers to return a car to the same place where they picked it up. The new program, however, will make one-way trips possible for the first time.
“Members have been asking us for this for years,” said Gita Rebbapragada, vice president of ONE>WAY. “We always knew that they wanted it. We’ve been thinking about this for a long time.”
Boston will be the first city to see the program launch. According to Zipcar Public Relations Specialist Lindsay Wester, the ONE>WAY service will open to Zipcar members throughout Boston in September.
Rebbapragada noted that the program requires fundamental changes to the longstanding model for carsharing that Zipcar has honed over the years.
Since announcing the launch of ONE>WAY, Zipcar has struggled to iron out several problems that have emerged as the company alters its traditional model, Rebbapragada said. For example, it is now more difficult for Zipcar to provide basic maintenance services because the company no longer knows where its fleet of cars will end up after one-way trips.
Rebbapragada says Zipcar has developed several new tools to ensure that customers receive the same high-quality Zipcar experience they came to expect from the traditional model.
The company has created an algorithm that allows it to manage when a car needs servicing. It has also begun to outfit its cars with technology that automatically sends Zipcar digital updates on when they need refueling or maintenance.
By partnering with Honda to create a new fleet of cars outfitted specifically for ONE>WAY, Zipcar will have a chance to see those tools at work.
The ONE>WAY program is still in its nascent stages with only about 24 cars roaming the city, available to a small, core group of Zipcar employees and customers.
Zipcar officials have been collecting feedback, even accompanying customers on one way rides throughout the city, to receive the most thorough commentary.
“The feedback has been really constructive,” Rebbapragada said.
The company recently introduced a crowdsourcing tool that allows customers to submit feedback on where they would want cars to be stationed.
“We’re really listening to our members,” Wester said.
According to Rebbapragada, when ONE>WAY opens to the Boston public in Septembre, there will probably be around 200 available cars—a figure that has emerged from months of Zipcar research. Should demand unexpectedly swell however, Zipcar can easily expand its fleet to include more cars, Rebbapragada said.
If ONE>WAY remains popular, Zipcar hopes to expand the program to other cities, she added.