In many big cities, owning a vehicle is fraught with downsides. In addition to theft and vandalism concerns, the monthly cost of renting a parking space can be more than a car payment. Daimler's "car2go" car-sharing service, which began a pilot program in late October in Ulm, Germany, is looking to eliminate some of those issues. It might even reduce traffic congestion and pollution. The idea is simple: Use the internet to find the location of the nearest car2go smart fortwo
, and drive away. An electronic chip on the renter's driver's license allows access to the vehicle and collects information for billing. Cost is about $1 for four minutes and includes insurance
, taxes and fuel. Renters keep a car as long as they choose and can leave the satellite-tracked microcar most anywhere inside Ulm city limits. Reservations can be made with a mobile phone or on the internet, and the day rate is competitive with conventional rental car outlets. The program is currently limited to Daimler employees, but it will be soon expand to include everyone. If successful, car2go could come to the U.S. in a couple of years.